Bots | Chatbots | AI.
Remain relevant. Avoid disruption. This is the talk of digital town at the moment…but how?
When it comes to efficiency and productivity in our fast paced lives, we continually seek to get more things done, quicker than ever before, because as creatures of habit, we humans must evolve.
I have used many efficiency and productivity tools (and delivery mechanisms) but the most intelligent by far that I have come across has been Siri (on Apple iPhone). However, whilst using Siri, I have found frustration for example, when requesting the latest news from Siri, she usually returns web links that I have to click. Recently Apple updated iOS, so I gave Siri another go but behold, she wanted to refer me (yet again) to the usual web links…so I sighed as I’d hoped the latest version of Siri was a little smarter.
It made me think that there has got to be something in development to provide me with a mix of content delivery, speed, efficiency, productivity, ease of use, and technology to produce news for me, in real time, when I need it and (in theory) redefining the word ‘routine’ in my life, as it applies…
Then it dawned on me that the answer is finally here and it is already in development and well under way. It’s not a secret but it’s not yet mainstream either.
I’ll use this as a segue to introduce my topic: Bots, Chatbots, Artificial Intelligence (AI).
In one way or another Bots, ChatBots, AI are going to re-shape our lives. An evolution has begun. The dawn of a new beginning which means very exciting times. We’re in the midst of the ‘next big thing’.
5 years ago I stumbled on a technology. I’ll never forget it. In 2011 I opened the iPhone App store and lone and behold there were only 32 iPhone Apps based on, what was then, a ‘new’ technology. I typed in ‘Augmented Reality’ and I couldn’t believe it, only 32 apps on this new technology. I still wasn’t exactly sure what it was all about but I’d read of it. About 18 months later I noticed the number of Apps in this new space grew from 32 Apps to 84, for the same search. I remember counting the number of Apps physically because there we so few that I could count them, literally. Another two or so years later around 2014–2015, that 84 must have grown to over about 400 and the exercise of counting became too hard for my brain to calculate. What I noticed however is that while the number of Apps grew substantially, that rate of growth was in no way proportionate to the numbers of take-ups by the end-user or consumer markets. Consumer interest had not rapidly embraced the new technology with the same rate the developer world had created them, until recently that is…
By now I expect you’ve read or heard about, if not played, the world’s’ most massively adopted game in history, Pokémon Go. For the first time in history, through this game, we observed the consumer take-up rates blowing all statistics off the charts, more than any other game or ‘craze’ before it, and thereby exposing the most basic level of ‘Augmented Reality’ through the game. Although the game only unleashes a small part of ‘Augmented Reality’ within the game itself, I expect we’ll see its (Augmented Reality’s) full implementation and capability slowly emerge and ripple through the Consumer market and indeed the Consumer experience leveraging this incredible experience across mobile tech, sector, industry etc.
I use the above case study to introduce the latest set of technologies which I believe will be the next incredible impact we will look back upon and mark as one of the most significant of all time.
Let’s take a look at:
What is a Bot and Chatbot
A bot is piece of software that is designed and created to automate the kinds of tasks we would usually do on our own, like making a reservation, adding an event to your calendar or displaying information.
Other types of things bots can do:
What is a Chatbot?
A Chatbot is a computer program or algorithm designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet and can be more commonly found in ‘conversation’ based environments or Apps.
As one would expect, Chatbots could take on many forms but if we stretch the imagination not too far at all, one fantastic application for such Chatbots would suite extremely well in a social media environment and especially well in our community connected world. Imagine further if Chatbots were deployed in a Facebook environment. You could open your favourite Brands Facebook Page and ask a question like: “Is this dress available in Blue instead of Red?” and imagine if the Chatbot just replied: ‘yes’ and: ‘you can order it in your size…what is your size?’. You reply: ‘10’ for example and it could reply: ‘where would you like it shipped?’ and you could reply with your address and it could ask you for it and would display a link. You click the link and it directs you to Paypal where you complete the transaction and bang! you close the Facebook Messenger App and the next day your blue dress arrives at your door.
If this is feeling strange or uncomfortable for you, invasive or just too futuristic, what if I brought this article full circle and told you: ”…sorry, you’re REALLY behind the times!”. What if I told you: “the future is now!”
Bots are not the future, they are already adopted and deployed among us. They are present. With that feeling inside your head, you can rest assured and feel glad you are reading this article because now you are ‘in the know’. Bots or more practically Chatbots are implemented already, within society and in use.
There are some known Chatbots like FooBot by Redfoo on Facebook (you can learn more about it here). If you don’t know who Redfoo is, it’s time you get onto Google and Search Redfoo. Some unknown Chatbots exist(or so it is speculated) inside applications like Apple’s iMessage for example. In this case iMessage is capable of including tracking details if you were chatting with FedEx about your parcel due.
Some additional examples (and you can play around with these yourself):
In April 2016 facebook opened its Messenger app to Chatbot development by developers.
Since then, we’ve seen the quickest adoption in history of a technology to the end-user and Consumer markets such that within weeks, we already saw Chatbots released on this platform in full use by end consumers within months of launching.
In business, one business focused messaging service utilising bot technology is Slack. Visit www.slack.com to play/learn more. Bots are proliferating in business at speed unseen since introduction of apps. They help business automate workflows and do things like to-do lists or even taking customer’s orders, writing up proposals, answering customer enquiries and FAQ’s and even qualifying leads/prospects and acting as sales assistants or PA’s.
Some recent and practical business cases are: Pizza Hut(USA) who recently launched its Bot with chat based ordering to take orders and claw back some market share from Domino’s Pizza’s App. Taco bell (USA) similarly have built a Chatbot in Slack from which customers can place orders: Click here if interested to view more.
Some additional platforms one can build Bots on or find Bots in:
What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
As an aside for now, I introduce Artificial Intelligence: computer systems able to do the kinds of stuff normally requiring human intelligence, such as finding things for you, speech recognition, taking notes, setting reminders, making decision, and translation between languages to mention a few. Practical examples are: Siri (on Apple iPhone), Cortana on Microsoft or ‘Ok Google’ on Android.
Effectively these are all bots, actually extremely advanced bots to laymen minds. Some may say, these bots emulate our human abilities. I think the difference between artificial intelligence and generic bots are the ability to evolve over time and with the ability to learn, based on responses or outcomes…the ability to ‘think’.
Let me explain with an example: I asked Siri: “Are you siri?” and her first response was: “I am Siri.”. I asked her again: “Are you Siri?”, again she responded, “I am Siri.” and the third time I asked, she answered: ”Siri, that’s me!”. You too can try this and my point is by the third time, Siri learns the pattern and responds differently to the first two responses. One could argue she is programmed that way but the point is that the bot has the ability to learn, adapt and respond, even if it is programmed to do so.
Let me take your mind further. Think about how much personal data your phone contains. Now think of how smart Siri is. Next, think of how powerful Chatbot technology is, even if only based on the simple samples I expose above. Now imagine for a minute mixing the three…your Smart Phone (Siri), a Chatbot and AI combined. Imagine if your favourite Brands could draw on all of your personal information, based on Siri’s brain, and could draw on all of that data to deliver targeted, measured responses to/for you, based on your user data and when you engage with those brands in social media or online, in real time. The results are perfectly targeted marketing outcomes to suit your precise user experience. This is where I think AI, Bot and Chatbot technology could or will end up and it is scary.
The problem as I see it is: what about such technologies becoming too smart? or what about all of this functionality in the wrong hands? used for the wrong, maybe bad purposes? I am concerned about the ethics and morals behind the Bots. By comparison I think about the music industry when ‘Napster’ first launched…the industry was baffled and it took 10 years or more before cloud based music apps took back control of music distribution and royalties.
I worry about the ethics and morals behind and inside the minds of those outside of the industry…of the ‘bad guys’, those ‘wrong hands’ we have nightmares about.
Who sets the rules? Who sets the boundaries? Who decides who plays the game?
With source code free and open in developer environments like Facebook Messenger etc, we are exposed to controversial question like: would you open your calendar to a Bot to book appointments for you? Believe it or not, they exist (email me and I will share a practical example with you) and they do just that. What if the data behind those apps got into the wrong hands?
As far as AI, Bots and Chat Bots go, I hope I have educated you and scraped the surface well enough to attract your interest and attention. I hope I have opened your mind with interesting thought.
Until the next time we meet again I’ll leave you with a more pressing human questioning: how far can bots go? where will the line be drawn on Bots replacing people?
In addition and for those of you who allow Google to show you weather and tell you how long it will take to get home or to work and track your every movement…this feature is called Google Now and it’s effectively an AI Bot!
If you have the need for a bot or just wish to chat about this stuff, I encourage you to contact me. Maybe my Bot will reply and schedule the meeting for us… I had better show up to the meeting though…
Article written by Glenn Miller. Please visit my Website and feel free to connect. I love meeting new, innovative and exciting people.