Why can we talk about artificial intelligence with Randy chatbot?

Siri, Alexa and Cortana have company. Olentzero, the Basque Santa Claus from whom you can ask for gifts in the nine dialects of Basque, in Spanish or English; KittyBus, the cat who tells you when the bus will arrive in Madrid; Cleo , a consultant who takes care of your personal finances, adding even your trips of the month on Uber; and Visabots, the assistant to solve visa problems in the United States. All and many (many) more are part of a growing bot population that has multiplied in the digital universe. Believe it or not, they have even acquired physical form (hardware) and citizenship, such as Sophia: (Source: EL PAÍS)

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But you don’t have to go that far. Most bots behind the screens have proper names and personalities of surprising humanity. They can send you the horoscope, weather forecast, news or taxi. Bots have come with the promise to make our life simpler, genesis theoretical of each new technology. Will it be like that?

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What is a “bot”?

It is an artificial intelligence software or software that works autonomously. That is, he is able to perform tasks imitating humans. You’ll see it clearer in its most expanded format, the chatbot.

“Hi, I’m Claire, how can I help you?”

The system interacts with users more and more similar to a person. To do this, the “intelligence” of the bot is to process spontaneous natural language, and provide coherent and valuable responses. Not only to solve your problem when your Wi-Fi has been cut, or make it easier to order food, but with ambitious promises such as calming panic attacks or taking care of your mental health.

“Chatbots, virtual assistants and, in general, conversational technology along with artificial intelligence is the next technological era,” says Ángel Hernández, founding partner of Chatbot Chocolate , a Spanish agency specialized in the development of these tools.

Although they’ve been with us for years (remember Clippy, the Microsoft Word assistant?) , this technology is found in many companies in the experimental stage. But of course, its expansion has accelerated in recent times.

What changed? Mobile phones changed and apps appeared, Hernández said. Although some believe that bots are the biggest threat to apps, they are instead their strategic partners, as chatbots are developed on top of the most used instant messaging apps: Facebook Messenger, Slack, WeChat, WhatsApp (in some countries), Telegram and others. Hence his success: chatting has become as natural to us than talking on the phone. And the same goes for generations previous ones.

Take this and apply it beyond customer support (24/7 and at a lower cost, by the way). Take a turn at the hairdresser, decide what clothes to wear depending on the weather, buy a plane ticket, get ideas for your shopping. And even connect with Pope Francis ! Or well, with a bot that imitates it.These and other options take place in the same chat with which you communicate with your friends from your mobile phone.

Angels or demons?

Bots seem to be the friendliest side of artificial intelligence; which until now was somewhat unpalpable or sci-fi. They are a gateway (technically, the interface) increasingly chosen for mortals’ access to computers.

But is it really so? Aren’t “bots” that spread fake news at rocket speed on social media?

They are, but they are not the same; technologies they differ. Those operating on social networks are generally scheduled for specific repeated tasks and to act on a very well-defined set of rules, for example, distributing false news to a type of users who post on a particular topic, such as Hillary Clinton. Instead, chatbots are able to do unstructured tasks, contemplating the context of a conversation, and even perceive the mood of the interlocutor, as a user angry because he did not receive his purchase.

This technology is where you entrepreneurs will find juicy business opportunities. According to market consultancy MarketsandMarkets, chatbots will move from 600 in 2016 to 2,712 million euros in 2021 , at an average growth rate of 35.2%.

On the other hand, Gartner projects that companies will employ virtual assistants or chatbots in 25% of customer service operations over the next two years, since its inception less than 2% in 2017. The consulting firm’s emerging technologies curve places virtual assistants at the top. In parallel, the forecast says, a high percentage of companies will abandon their mobile applications because they have not found the expected return on them.

Imagination: The Limit

Samantha: How long will it take you to be ready to date someone?

Theodore: What do you mean?

Samantha: I saw in your emails that you’ve been through a breakup…

In the film Her (“Ella”), solitaire Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with the female voice (Scarlett Johansson) that lives on his operating system with artificial intelligence, and accompanies him on a hearing aid wherever he goes. As the system “learns” from the information that receives, adapts and evolves, the relationship grows. Theodore and Samantha spend long hours talking, discussing life and love, almost like two real people. There are laughs, crying and even sex scenes (virtual, of course). Until Theodore repairs that Samantha simultaneously maintains thousands of similar relationships with men like him. Or, rather, many like him have fallen in love with an operating system.As we said, bots are no longer fiction, and that’s why no one believes it impossible for you to create a system like Samantha.

“Like any emerging business, the limit is on the imagination,” says Rudy Bianco, a professor at Barcelona Technology School, as well as being a successful chatbot entrepreneur and leader of the technological think tank M4.

For those looking to do business with chatbots, Bianco warns to take this technology for what it is: “A user interface and not an intelligent system”, distinguishes, emphasizing the experience of the user about intelligence.

Bianco describes the ideal bots as “simple, clear, with a clear and preset function for the end user, and then evolve”. Useful, rather than polyfunctional, it synthesizes. “Making a bot that does 4 things is easy. But making a bot that does those 4 things better than any interface is quite a challenge. It is in that “detail” of superior sophistication and excellence in the use of technologies where the biggest business is ,” he says, and recommends not confusing the simplicity of creating a bot with its success.

For example, in customer service, transcend the question and answer function to solve problems.

Transversal and with great potential

Like its functions, there is a huge multiplicity in the sectors that are deploying chatbots. According to Hernández, these are a “transversal service to business”, whose near future equates to that of websites, which have become common to all companies. “Chatbots will become a new channel that will break into the mobile terrain, moving in some cases, but above all living with apps,” he says. That is, a customer can order a pizza through an app, but also via WhatsApp and Google Home.

As an example, the tourism sector is one that has adopted and continues to expand the use of chatbots by approaching customers in hotels, travel agencies, train operators, airlines and others.

For this and other businesses, customer service, where virtual conversations have proliferated the most, seems to be just the beginning. Specialists agree on the area where the use of chatbots will exploit: “The sector most likely to grow in bots is e-commerce . It’s clear: it’s the sector that doesn’t have a physical place. Your whole business is virtual and your whole business depends on experience,” says Bianco, who emphasizes this potential based on a direct return.

Among the examples already underway, Hernández cites Carrefour, who through his Facebook Messenger chatbot not only gives information about his schedules, but also recommends products. Another, he highlights, is the case of the restaurant chain TGI Fridays, which recently reported a 100% increase in home sales thanks to the introduction of the chatbot. “The profitability and efficiency of these systems is obvious,” he concludes.

Intelligence voice: the not-so-distant future

In addition to the major projections of this technology is the adoption of devices that combine chatbots with speech recognition, which, says Bianco, makes them doubly interesting from the point of view of the scope of the business. And, of course, from sophistication.

To mention a Hernández points out the inclusion of bots in home life through smart speakers, which today already have a space in half of households in the United States.The specialist sees the arrival of voice as a powerful change in everyday life: “The combination of chatbots, virtual assistants and the Artificial Intelligence will provoke a resounding turn in the way we communicate with our environment, leading to a new era in which the preferred interface will be voice.”

If you’re in doubt that nascent bots will end up replacing humans, the consolation of experts is that most jobs in the future have not yet been created. And who knows, maybe your next job or startup is related to this bot universe.

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