Chatbots have been around a long time. When Joseph Weizenbaum’s program ELIZA was published in 1966, it aimed to mimic real human conversation. ELIZA worked by parsing the words that users entered into a computer and then matching them to a list of possible scripted responses. Similarly, you could have a pleasant conversation with SmarterChild- the chatbot from ActiveBuddy. You could jest or flirt with it, and it would always seem to know how to respond.
After SmarterChild, chatbots spent several years in the wilderness. However, with advancements in technology, bots have staged quite a comeback. Chatbots have seen large scale adoption by many, including giants such as Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft. To quote Kik’s CEO Ted Livingston, ” It’s no longer a question of if bots are coming, but how.” This latest wave of chatbots has seen a shift in focus. Instead of trying to mimic human personality, they’re just another set of tools—an evolution of the apps that have served us for years. While Apple’s Siri might give you a few humorous replies, it exists mostly, to get things done. Google Now & Microsoft’s Cortana skip the personality bit altogether.
The Age of ChatBots:
Facebook is bidding big on bots. With its 1.9 billion Messenger and WhatsApp users, they have a head start. At the F8 developer conference, Mark Zuckerberg said, “No one wants to have to install a new app for every business or service that they want to interact with.” Messenger now hosts a number of bots that provide various services like weather forecasts, news updates, and shopping assistants. In China, WeChat users can pay for services from verified companies and restaurants within the chat app. Similarly, in Waterloo, the hometown of Kik, users can use the app to order food from a major fast food restaurant chain.
Chatbots can save you from making the dreaded customer care calls. It’s much nicer to ask for help and receive it immediately than to click all over the internet or wait on hold for what can feel like an eternity. They enable vendors to meet customers where they already are—on WeChat, Kik, and Messenger—minimizing the need for one-off apps for various services. The chatbot revolution is upon us! We can look forward to clutter free phones once again and a one-stop platform to service all our needs.