Last time you used a livechat window on a website, did you stop to think that “Annie”, your friendly customer service representative, may have been a robot? Like most people, you probably think you’d be able to tell straight away if it was a chatbot, right?
Maybe not. In the health, fitness, and dating industries to name a few, chatbots and their fast-evolving AI are proving more effective and accessible than their human counterparts.
Over the last two years, chatbots have established a strong foothold in all areas of online services. Accessed in many different ways across all industries, they’ve proven themselves to be an indispensable digital lubricant for online customer service, replacing FAQ sections and providing immediate, natural-sounding answers to users asking questions.
Chatbots may not yet be as widespread as phone voice prompts, but there are a growing number of companies across every industry that have gone all-in on chatbots, to great effect. Here are five stand-out examples:
The application DoNotPay is designed to offer free legal advice to simple litigation matters. The bot they’ve created is able to scour simple yet dense legal jargon and content to offer a cheaper alternative that would be impossible for a human.
What used to be unfeasible due to language, time and cost is now readily accessible. De-pricing legal knowledge is a huge future step forward, especially for those in our society who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford the often exorbitant costs associated with even the most basic of legal information.
Being bilingual in the future is a matter for discussion; the benefits of being so are not. The Duolingo program, previously a game-based system, has now evolved into an educational back-and-forth conversation that will adjust to your knowledge and grasp of the other language.
By allowing you to create your ideal language buddy while you learn, it gives users the ability to not only pace themselves to their own speed, but also to have simulated conversations – a huge leap forward compared to the old method of repeatedly listening to language tapes.
Let’s look at an app called Mirror. The app is simply an at-home device (it looks like a mirror!) that projects an instructor and classmates at home. The idea simulates being at a workout class: it’s the digital solution to a chaotic 21st century life, and perhaps another step closer to us humans achieving the sort of life balance we crave.
A Chinese medical application designed to help doctors and patients alike. The idea is to increase communication between the two, by improving doctor productivity and helping patients access quicker answers.
The patient goes into the application and states their medical symptoms, from which the machine will learn, ask the right questions, and make an educated diagnosis. Ideally the closest thing to a home doctor visit, without the four-hour waiting period.
A dating coach chatbot launched by Match.com but powered by Facebook messenger, Lara is a conversation service that works to determine your dating preferences, rather than having you fill out a dry form.
To make the whole process more interactive, Lara will start a casual conversation with the user, throughout which she asks some personal questions and eventually invites you to set up a Match.com account – all within the Facebook messenger app. Once the setup is complete, Lara continues to chat with you while searching for that special someone who meets your ideal criteria.
The quest to achieve human-like computing has accelerated exponentially in the last few years, but it’s not a new concept; it goes back at least as far as 1990’s Loebner Prize, which was a competition to create human-like software. However it’s only recently that we as casual consumers have started to witness the fruits of this technology. It is beginning to shape the way we experience not only the digital world, but also the world beyond.
Whether or not chatbots become the norm will come down to the next few years of testing and improvement. Every tech company these days is developing their own brand of AI, machine learning or virtual assistant, but will they work? Will they become widely used and accepted?
We’ve all had a bad greeting on a shopping site’s chat or felt frustrated by an obnoxious automated phone line. Finance, public services, utilities, retail and general complaints lines have the most to gain from chatbots, and with their application now so broad, it paints a picture of a near future where the kinks are ironed out and user experience surpasses what the a real person can offer.
Human interaction still seems to be the final resolution for now, but we cannot deny that chatbots are fulling a certain need and have mass potential to play a bigger role in our everyday lives.
Watch this space.