Chatbots or simply bots have been garnering a lot of media attention in recent years. Whether it’s trying to answer life’s great questions or simply changing the way businesses interact with their clients, bot technology is making a far-reaching impact. But, what are bots exactly?
Bot is the short form of robot. However, a bot is any computer program that runs automatically, free of user control. While we often associate bots with chat and AI, your computer actually has many bots running on it at all time. Many of the background processes that you don’t pay attention to are considered bots.
When it comes to the future of bots, the big thing on everyone’s mind is combining them with AI and deep learning tools to create a chatbot(and other) that feel like a real person to interact with. With the rate the field has been progressing at in recent years, it’s very likely that we’re no more than a decade from a chatbot that is indistinguishable from a human being in general conversation.
For more on that, and what else the future has in store, we asked a group of industry experts…
What’s The Future Of Bots?
Here’s what they had to say…
Rurik Bradbury, Global Head of Research at LivePerson
“As of today, most bots run as isolated scripts on a website, on Facebook, or in messaging apps. This will quickly change as bots come to be seen more as “agents” — similar to human ones — that need to be hired, measured, managed and fired, just like people. This will need a new type of software that handles bots the same way as human staff, in contact centers and other job roles.
At first we’ll see bots added into the customer service mix as helpers — focused on a few simple tasks — but over time, we’ll see the entire structure of companies change and a new phenomenon: “bots in the org chart”. What this means is that people will manage a mixture of bots and other humans. In the 10+ year timescale, I believe bots will actually manage humans, directing their tasks and activities with AI.”
Ashley Unitt, Chief Scientist & Co-founder of NewVoiceMedia
“Contrary to dystopian assumptions, a bot-driven future arguably wouldn’t mean less manpower.
With the assistance of machines, humans can do more and together man and machine can accomplish feats that neither alone could do. Using customer service chatbots as an example, when faced with a customer query, a virtual assistant attempts to provide a list of possible responses. It’s then left up to the service agent to pick the best of those returned, making final checks and edits where necessary, and all the time the cyborg assistant is helping and learning from the human.
In the future, we will see bots advance with the help of natural language processing and machine learning. The combination of bots and humans will improve the experiences of customers, prospects, and agents, and help deliver better business outcomes and more satisfaction for everyone involved. And as chatbot capabilities catch up with expectations, cyborg assistants could flourish.”
Mahi de Silva, Co-Founder & CEO of Botworx
“Conversational Commerce – embodied in chatbots will undoubtedly be the future workhorse for digital/mobile marketing and sales. As platforms become more advanced, companies will use bots for not only customer service but it will become a powerful medium for acquiring, engaging and transacting with customers. This journey will create very valuable data around personal engagement and purchase intent, enhanced with customer sentiment – which will be leveraged for brand advocacy and social sharing. Brands have come to understand the value of social marketing, conversational commerce, will take this up a notch, delivering more data, better conversion, and end-to-end attribution because commerce will happen within the channel itself. Consider messaging a friend about dinner plans, and within that conversation, you see a prompt from one of your favorite restaurants about available reservations and featured items – which you happen to have ordered previously. These capabilities are already accessible and will continue to proliferate as bot platforms continue to grow.”
Joe Beninato, CEO of Banter, Inc.
“The world of AI and bots is evolving about as rapidly as anything I’ve seen in my 25+ years in Silicon Valley. If we look out 10-15 years, I suspect AI systems will be handling a very high percentage of customer service for most companies, and bot platforms will no longer be necessary. Machine learning will evolve to the point where the systems get seeded and then rapidly evolved to handle most inquiries directed to them. Voice will continue to grow in importance, but because there are situations where typing is more convenient than speaking, I don’t believe text will go away completely.”
Scott Horn, CMO at 7
“Two changes I see to the bot landscape are proliferation of AI mashups, such IBM Watson and Salesforce Einstein, and moving much further along in companies being able to predict consumer intent. The first is a future where technology from multiple vendors works seamlessly in harmony throughout the enterprise. For example, prediction could come from one company, decisioning from another, and a presentation layer from yet another company. Enterprise data will be exposed through APIs and microservices, and feedback loops will tie it all together where they all learn from each other and improve over time.
We are moving into The Age of Intent, where business that can anticipate and act on what a consumer is trying to do will thrive, and those who don’t will be disrupted. We will see a new level of intent-driven AI and bots that go beyond simply understanding and responding to a question, to proactively provide the remedy or solution before the customer explicitly asks for it. This will significantly improve a consumer’s experience with a business, driving improved customer satisfaction and increased revenue for that business.”
Zandy Garrard, Digital Workplace Solutions Architect at RBA, Inc.
“The concept of chatbots for customer service is not new… we’ve all come across them at least once in the past few years. But, that technology is getting smarter and quite useful to employers, in addition to their customers. The digital workplace is giving way to the next generation of internal communications and human resources-focused chatbots that can be used, for example, to answer employee questions in instant messaging and text settings. Chatbots could even have applications for new employees, helping them to answer benefits inquiries and anticipate what questions might be next.”
Stuart Watt, CTO of Turalt
“Future bot platforms will be have a markedly deeper use of human psychology. People vary immensely in how they react to social interaction with bots, and this will demand innovations in machine learning, but also in psychological understanding of each distinctive individual’s reactions to social interaction, across all the different situations bots will be handling. These new platforms will enable bots to adapt to each individual far more precisely. Even text-based interaction has a kind of ‘body language’, but with further acceptance of voice and video bots, the next generation of bots will be more accurate at inferring people’s mental states from subtle textual, voice, facial and gestural cues. Future bots will be far better at integrating this data with better predictive models of human behavior, to ensure their responses are a better fit for people’s needs.”
Jason Behrmann, CCO at Enkidoo Technologies
“Ten years from now Chatbot platforms will be customized, invisible and ubiquitous. Gone are the days of texting commands to your bot; you’ll instead engage in casual conversation with a witty digital assistant. You will carry your bot assistant everywhere, yet it will never be obtrusive because you will access its interface using a discrete device, such as glasses that peer out to a world of augmented reality. Expanding beyond current payment functions, your future bot will access your personal information on the blockchain, making it your safekeeper for your wallet, ID cards, transit pass and more. You’ll be spending a lot of time with your bot, so it will become a trusted friend you customize to your preferences. Developers will market a slew of bot personalities much like apps today; Bart Simpson and an endless rotation of porn stars will be the best selling personalities at the bot store.”
Andrew Greenstein , CEO of SF AppWorks
“There are several advantages to creating a chatbot. They open a direct line of communication to your users. They allow you to quickly test out new distribution channels like Facebook Messenger and SMS. They reduce the need for customer service resources. They create magical user experiences. However, for chatbots to be effective they need to be carefully crafted to address very specific use cases. The more focused the use case, the more natural the chatbot will feel.
With the proliferation of voice driven search, chatbots can even exist with no visual interface, as is the case with Amazon Echo and Google Home. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2020, 30% of all searches will be conducted without an interface.
John Pilkin, VP Strategic Innovation, General Manager at NeuraFlash
“Bot platforms, like most UX platforms, will quickly commoditize to larger companies in the marketplace (Amazon Lex, Wit, etc.). Platforms that provide the best experiences will last longer, though those will eventually fall as well. The key differentiator to those larger platforms is data ownership and privacy. Users will have a choice, 1 share data with singleton platforms for a specific experience or 2, own their data and decide what aspects of their world to share. Platforms that federate multiple data sources and maintain conversational context across devices will rise to the forefront as they provide the preferred seamless experience. Bots will be embedded in IoT devices and graphical/touch interfaces will be enabled giving them awareness of not only the conversation but physical environment in which they are interacting. Bots then transition from a ChatBot to the true personal assistant we’ve been chasing after for the last few decades.”