As the stilted computer interactions of yesterday are tentatively being replaced by something approaching friendly chit-chat, we ask how successful are chatbots, and do they have a future?
What is a ChatBot?
Dictionary definition: ‘A computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the internet.’
For a chatbot to feel ‘real’ and authentic it needs to give a human-like experience to its users. It would need to demonstrate, at the very least, compassion, understanding and resolution.
At present the most common use of chatbots is for simple business operations, such as simple emails, invoices and delivery processing information.
How are we using chatBots?
In 2016, Microsoft launched ‘Tay’ the chatbot onto Twitter. He was designed to absorb information from other Twitter users, process this information and use it to engage and interact with followers.
Using the latest artificial intelligence, the tech world watched with bated breath to see just what ‘Tay’ would absorb and how he would reflect it back out onto the world…
In just 24 hours, ‘Tay’ went from sweetly saying hello to the world in his first tweet, to a swearing, holocaust-denying racist! As humans, we like to test the limits of technology, especially technology that simulates human behaviour. Let’s face it, we all knew someone who taught their Furby a swear word or two, and ‘Tay’ was no different, some users simply seized an opportunity to test its ability to be human.
Within 24 hours ‘Tay’ and his racist ramblings were removed from Twitter, and Microsoft released profuse apology statements.
Coding a Chatbot, especially one that has the capabilities to learn from its environment, is complex to say the least. This Chatbot lacked the capability to understand prejudice and discrimination.
The latest industry disruptor from Silicon Valley refocuses the chatbot’s capabilities to look at spicing up the boring art of form filling. Emily the ‘Death bot’ doesn’t skirt around the edges when it comes to talking about death. Covering life support, organ donation, religious matters and other death related topics, ‘Emily’ offers free end of life planning services that, in some states of America, is combined to form a legally binding document that is printable after the chat.
Designed to help remove the awkwardness of a difficult conversation, the chatbot is meant to make it easier for people to talk about emotionally difficult topics, and in the future, they hope to release similar chatbots for other difficult topics such as wills and funeral planning.
Could this be the future for chat bots?
ChatBots are not the fastest advancing technology out there, but their autonomous nature do serve a purpose in the more mundane and repetitive everyday office duties. Perhaps not quite ready to engage and interact with the general public quite yet, they do seem to have a promising future as the AI technology develops and becomes more advanced.
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