An introduction to chatbots

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If you are an active user of social media and messenger apps, you must be familiar with chatbots.

That’s precisely our topic of discussion today – Chatbots!

In the past two years, the entire experience customer service has scaled up a notch, thanks to chatbots. These interactive bots are now used by almost every major company like Facebook, Apple, Google, and Microsoft, to help customers interact with their brand on a personal level and know more about their products and services. In other words, chatbots have paved the way for a more personalized online experience.

According to Gartner, by 2020 nearly 85% of the customer interactions will be handled without any human assistance. How? Chatbots, of course!

Now, let’s get to the fundamental question:

What is a Chatbot?

To put it in the simplest of terms, a chatbot is a program or software that can communicate with you (and other humans too!).

But wait, don’t be mistaken. Although a chatbot is designed to communicate with humans, it is unfair and even unjustified to think that a chatbot can communicate with you exactly as a human would! For no matter how advanced a bot is, it is what it is – a bot. So, it’s better you don’t harbor any unrealistic expectations from a chatbot!

Chatbots are basically of two types:

Scripted (rule-based)

Scripted chatbots are bots whose behavior and functionality is determined according to a specific set of rules. Hence, any conversation with scripted chatbots will follow a predetermined course for they will know only how to answer according to the way they’ve been programmed. So, when you communicate with such a chatbot, its answers and options (voice, text, touch) will depend on its innate design and preset responses.

Intelligent (AI-powered)

Intelligent chatbots, as the name suggests, are intelligent. Being AI-powered, these chatbots are designed to learn and adapt from behavioral experiences. So, the more you interact with them, the smarter the bots become. For instance, if you wish to have the recipe of chocolate cake, the intelligent chatbot will surf the Internet and find all the best possible resources for a chocolate cake recipe for you! Unlike scripted chatbots, intelligent chatbots can accept any free form of input (text, speech, or image) and respond accordingly.

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However, one thing to keep in mind is that both of these chatbot variants have their own limitations as the technology is still largely in its infancy.

History: The beginning of chatbots

The first breakthrough in this arena dates back to 1950 when Alan Turing and Joseph Weizenbaum imagined computers talking like humans and with that in mind, they developed the Turing Test – a test designed to distinguish a human from a machine.

However, it was only in 1966 that Weizenbaum programmed the first chatbot named ELIZA that could imitate the language and behavior of a psychotherapist. Another chatbot named PARRY came into the scene in 1972 and interaction with both ELIZA and PARRY had to be done in the form of texts. Voice operated chatbot came much later in 1988 with Rollo Carpenter’s Jabberwacky project.

Fast forward to the present day and we have some of the most developed and intelligent chatbots such as U-Report, Heston Bot, Nerdy Bot, ENO, and to name a few.

What does the future look like for chatbots?

The future of chatbots certainly seems bright now for people are now showing more inclination towards messenger apps than social networking apps.

So, businesses are naturally shifting to the messenger and chatbot domain than investing their time and resources on social media platforms. Chatbots now present a huge and emerging business opportunity for any and every individual who’s willing to leverage its potential.

Now the question is, are you ready to cash this opportunity?

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