According to analyst firm eMarketer
, in 2016, more than 1.4 billion people used messaging applications. By 2019, more than 25% of the world's population (approximately 1.75 billion people) will constantly use instant messengers to communicate with each other.
But not only people can send and receive messages. Against the general background of the growing popularity of WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Telegram, ICQ, WeChat, and other applications, chatting with chat bots, which in some cases can easily replace interlocutors from flesh and blood, increasingly happens.
According to the Humanity in the Machine
report, the vast majority of people are ready for the business to provide their services via chat bots. For the sake of fast and accurate answers, people are ready to communicate with bots, vendors, consultants, and secretaries. Online chat and messaging applications are
the preferred way of communicating with the seller for 29% of Americans. In other countries, this figure is still lower, but gradually more and more people are beginning to prefer chat bots.
Can programs become full-fledged human competitors? Let's look at the current situation on the example of the most popular automated communication systems.
How bots have gained popularity
First of all, it must be said that there is nothing new in chat bots. One of the first virtual interlocutors was the Eliza program, created in 1966 by Joseph Weisenbaum. Eliza parodied the psychotherapist's speech behavior, implementing the technique of active listening: she asked the user again and used phrases like "Please continue." An experiment was conducted, during which the program communicated with randomly selected users. For the first time, some people could not guess that the machine communicated with them.
Although bots have evolved significantly over time, for many years they were used only to simulate human philosophical dialogues. Systems based on communication patterns can keep the conversation going for a long time, but there is little practical sense.
The revolution occurred when the “communication” templates were changed to the “recommendations” templates. The bots could not only answer the simple question “How are you?”, But also accurately give a recommendation to the question “Do I need an umbrella today?”. The most advanced learned to doubt and, in case of uncertainty in the answer, forward the question to the person.
Thus, chat bots are not just computer programs that imitate a conversation, but systems that try to predict the best answer for their interlocutor.
If the bot is able to communicate clearly and correctly understands the person, then there is no special need to hire an additional employee. Addressing the representatives of the brand for advice, the client most often acts on a template himself. There is no need to hire living employees who, according to instructions, will respond to all users of the memorized text - such personnel are indistinguishable from robots, but at the same time need wages, weekends and holidays.
Chat bots, at relatively low development costs, can help an infinite number of people around the clock.
The most popular chat botChatbottle
is the largest search engine for bots that helps developers inform users about new virtual assistants. The site contains a ranking of bots collected by various parameters: the number of votes, user statistics, platforms, categories (travel, productivity, social interaction, e-commerce, entertainment, news, etc.). At the moment, more than three and a half thousand bots for Facebook Messenger, Kik, Slack, Skype and Telegram are represented on the site.
The most popular chatbottle bot is Poncho
for Facebook Messenger. Poncho sends you personal weather forecasts with funny jokes / memes and thus looks more like a meteorological friend than a heartless weather report service. But it is doubtful that a bot can fully replace a specialist in winds and precipitation.
In each category on the site, you can choose an interesting application. So, for example, Meekan
is considered the best bot for raising personal productivity, working with different calendars to create a schedule. Allows you to synchronize plans with anything, in any calendar.
Chinese search engine Baidu launched a medical chat bot designed to diagnose diseases. Yes, at first glance it sounds awful, because we all know perfectly well that only a doctor can diagnose. Attempting to look at the Internet leads to the fact that the patient finds in himself the symptoms of whooping cough, Ebola, and bubonic plague. So can the program help?
allows you to communicate with real doctors and make an appointment, but his real talent is revealed when communicating. The application analyzes user-defined symptoms and, depending on the intended diagnosis, connects it with one of 600,000 specialized doctors. The task of Melody is not to say “you have lupus” - first of all, information is collected for medical professionals.- Tell me exactly where your pain is concentrated?
- You to the ENT. Following!
Melody asks additional questions, but at the same time responds to previous statements. In some cases, you will be given the opportunity to choose the answer from several options at once. In terms of “meticulousness,” the Melody bot may seem even more corrosive than the doctor, but as a result, your attending doctor will receive information about the disease even before the first dose and draw preliminary conclusions based on his clinical experience.
Currently, the bot is only available in China, but Baidu is actively looking for new markets. A number of startups in the US and the UK have launched similar applications, including Your.MD
and Babylon Health
Your.MD asks you about the symptoms, body parameters and medical history, then compiles a list of the most and least likely causes of the symptoms and evaluates them by severity.
The San Francisco-based company Sense.ly
even developed Molly’s “virtual nurse”, which analyzes the patient’s condition using the Kinect-based gesture recognition function as well as the speech recognition function. Molly helps people with chronic illnesses look after their health and form personalized treatment plans. In addition, the virtual assistant reminds you when you need to take medicine. In general, everything that a nurse who would come to your home could do. Does this mean that the AI will take work from visiting nurses? According to the World Health Organization, in the next 20 years, there will be about 13 million doctors and medical workers missing in the world. The lack of medical staff remains an acute problem, and it cannot be solved in simple ways. Instead of forcing doctors to work with dozens of patients a day, you can shift some of the work to virtual assistants.
It is easy to teach a bot to sell a product, but when it comes to services, there are too many different nuances. In insurance, it is not the client who most often selects the offer, but they sell him a certain type of service. It was difficult to automate this process, but chat bots got here.
Insurance company Lemonade
provides its AI Jim bot to handle claims. His work looks very impressive. Last year, a client, through a firm's application, announced a stolen coat. For three seconds, his demand was satisfied - thus a world record was set in the insurance industry. For these three seconds, AI Jim reviewed the application, checked for compliance with internal rules, completed 18 anti-fraudulent algorithms, approved the application, sent payment instructions to the bank, and informed the client about successful consideration of the case.
The funny thing about this story is that the creators of the chat bot had nothing to do with insurance. Just two techies at some point noticed that a huge industry was numb and suffering from a lack of automated solutions.
So far, the bot is ready to consider only simple cases, but what used to take weeks or months now occurs in a few minutes or seconds. That's what happens when you replace people and documents with bots and machine learning.
Lemonade was not the first company that came up with the use of bots in the insurance business. In fact, there are already many such solutions. Spixii
is an insurance agent who speaks five languages. This bot is designed to speed up the insurance process, in a simple conversation, offering users the appropriate insurance for them. Spixii has a feature that makes it look like a person: if a bot notices that you are doing something that is not covered by your insurance (for example, you are engaged in active sports), then you will be asked to sign up for a more impressive insurance package (and will also remind about this case).
Modern bots are like salesmen or consultants, but the spirit of the old school is still alive. The AnzacLive Wizeline chat bot
, designed for News Corp Australia, is a big project to digitize and recycle the extensive diary entries of Australian soldier Archie Barvik, a WWI veteran who is right now in the middle of fighting at the front.
Of course Archie died long ago, but with the help of his diaries we can learn more about the history of the days when he fought. His extensive records cover all the experiences of a young soldier, ranging from thoughts of fear of an impending battle (“This may be the last entry I write”), to daily activities such as food, drink, sports and, of course, his beloved home .
Archie is dead, but in some ways he continues to live, being a fusion of historical research, journalism, traditional print media and social channels. Chat bot continues to answer questions and sends messages from the battlefield in France.
Automated HR Assistants
Boston startup Talla
develops chat bots that help new employees to quickly adapt and solve minor organizational problems. The bot will tell you what you should pay attention to in the workflow, tell you when the salary will come or when the next weekend will finally come.
Talla is not a neighbor in the office, whom you will be jerking on trifles for the entire trial period. Chat bot is available around the clock and never get tired of answering you. It automates and coordinates hundreds of tasks every day, integrating with various calendars and documents from Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Work.
The next version of Talla will take on the functions of a human resources specialist. This means that the first detailed information about the company you will receive from the chat with the bot.
The startup plans to grow real business assistants from its bots, some of whom will decide which of the applicants should be invited for an interview. The bot is looking for similarities in resumes of potential candidates with data from successful current employees.
But let's not forget that the real work with the staff is a very difficult (for the machine) task, the solution of which cannot be imagined without the full processing of the natural language. And this requirement rests on the problem of creating a strong AI.
Another well-known recruiter assistant - Cyra
- appeared only a year ago. Recruiters can interact with Cyra in a natural language and talk about the type of candidate they need. Cyra asks several questions for recruiters to understand their requirements and selection criteria, and then identifies candidates in their database.
Again a startup from Boston - AdmitHub
. At this time, the company helps applicants to enter a university, and then understand the complex issues of university life. AdmitHub was developed by the Oli
bot, which provides all students with a free guide about college life. For example, you can ask him where the nearest hostel is or when the registration for the course ends. Oli helps colleges meaningfully engage students and give an understanding of the prospects for successful studies.Duolingo
is a popular language platform that helps everyone learn new languages and communicate with other people. Recently, they began to actively implement chat bots
that communicate in the language you are learning. The bots themselves initiate the conversation by asking you questions about various aspects of life. They can suggest possible answers if you do not know what to say yet, as well as point out the mistakes you made. Even a novice can talk to them - at first bots communicate simply, but the more practice, the harder it becomes to practice. In addition, each bot has its own individual style and its own answer to your questions.
is a chat bot that sends recipes to people leading a healthy lifestyle. To use this bot, it is enough to tell him the contents of your refrigerator - name at least one product. Chatting with a great book of online recipes is not so fun, but useful. For fans of the usual food there is a telegram-bot @ mycookbot
, suggesting recipes in Russian.
In 2015, a former Amazon employee created a chat bot, Mona
, a recommendation system for new products, trends and fashion. Mona is looking for online stores that meet a specific set of criteria: type, style, price, etc. Mona knows that she will still go to stores next month, or when a sale will begin in the nearest shopping center.
A bot can track the prices of certain products and offers lists of "top-20" with personalized discounts. Mona processes messages in your email (including digging through all spam), looking for offers of discounts, sales, order confirmations and checks.
At the moment, Mona is considered one of the most popular personal trading assistant bots. He supports work with more than 300 retail stores (USA).
Alexa, Siri and Cortana cannot be compared with the Japanese assistant Azuma Hikari
. Let's start with the fact that Azuma has a body that is created using a computer system and a projector. And although this is only a "holographic" character, at least you can see it. The virtual girl in anime-style shows the weather forecast, works as an alarm clock, reminds you of things you need to be reminded of, controls the lighting and devices of your smart home, struggles with your loneliness.
Azuma understands speech in natural language (to the best of her abilities) and is able to respond. After training, she can help her master cope with negative emotions - she will listen and support in difficult times.
This bot may seem strange to us, but in Japan in 32% of households there are lonely people, so artificial intellectual interlocutors have a meaning there.
Chat bots are becoming an important, useful, necessary tool of modern life. Yes, it is convenient to communicate with your car through, for example, TeslaBot, or create websites using the Right Click bot. From a business point of view, chat bots reduce the load on call-centers, reduce maintenance costs, and increase revenue. But all these facts are only “trees”, behind which there is no “forest”.
The chat bots revolution has already begun, but they are only a weak surge in a huge wave of progress. The famous futurologist Ray Kurzweil predicts
that by 2029, chat bots will have language skills at the human level. How will future professions change in which people will be replaced by artificial intelligence? Well, perhaps now is the time to begin experiments with an unconditional basic income
that people will receive at the expense of an efficiently operating AI.