Will chatbots change the future for the better?

Recently, everyone has been hearing quite a lot about chatbots, especially after Zuckerberg’s latest announcement to build bots for his Messenger platform.  Still, many people are probably a little confused as to what a chatbot is exactly.  And even if you’ve interacted with a chatbot before (knowingly or unknowingly), it can be a confusing concept […]

Recently, everyone has been hearing quite a lot about chatbots, especially after Zuckerberg’s latest announcement to build bots for his Messenger platform.  Still, many people are probably a little confused as to what a chatbot is exactly.  And even if you’ve interacted with a chatbot before (knowingly or unknowingly), it can be a confusing concept to wrap your head around.  The trick to this, though, is not to overanalyze it.

Loosely speaking, a chatbot is a computer software program that was created with the intention of having a conversation with a human.  The ultimate goal, as many chatbot enthusiasts like to put it, is to convince the human that the chatbot is just another human.

As it stands, the typical chatbot can ask and answer questions, manage basic customer service interactions, and complete simple requests.  But in the future, tech giants like Facebook, Slack, and Microsoft plan to change this drastically.

As BBC puts it, eventually, everyone will have a central chatbot that will, in essence, be your personal assistant (or, software butler).  Business Insider says this may be possible with the help of one platform that allows a slew of individual chatbots to interact with one another and talk to you about relevant information – like your flight information, upcoming meetings, and pending shipments.  These chatbots will have the ability to seamlessly tie all of these events together to create smart and holistic outcomes.

This means, you won’t need to open up multiple apps to find the answer to one question – for instance, you need to figure out what time your flight lands, because you have a meeting at 4.  You want to know what the best possible route is to get to your meeting, and if you’ll even be able to make it there on time.  In the future, a sophisticated chatbot will be able to answer this question for you in a matter of seconds.  No need to open up your GPS, calendar, and flight information to figure it all out.  However, there’s still plenty of work that needs to be done before something like this can be accomplished.

Microsoft has been relatively successful with Cortana, but when they tried out their AI chatbot, Tay, on Twitter, it was a disaster.  M, on Facebook’s Messenger, is capable of giving you recommendations on purchases and can even order you an Uber, but that’s about as far as it goes.  Alexa, for Amazon’s Echo, is about as high tech as chatbots and virtual assistants come, but she isn’t capable of performing outside of Amazon very well.

In other words, we’re in the infant stages of AI chatbots.  Despite our infancy, though, many sources are claiming that Zuckerberg’s announcement to dive deeper into chatbot territory is going to be legendary and game-changing, just as it was when Apple launched the App Store.  If this is the case, it should be an exciting couple of years, and the way we interact with our phones, the internet, and smartphone applications will be nothing like it is today.

Published on April 20, 2016