I have been fascinated by Ro-bots since my childhood. First time I was introduced to the world of ro-bots was through one of the popular TV series “Giant Robot” during the 80’s in India. As a school going child I used to be amazed by the robot’s powers. As I grew, I also came across some of my school lessons explaining the term robots. In fact in one of my lessons, I still remember the statement which says, “Robots will replace humans in many areas of life”. In reality it is still under process. Then when I was in high school, I watched the all-time box office hit “Terminator-2” in which the story talks about how the world of robots can take over the world. Even in recent times, we have come across Indian movies like Robot, Ra one which dealt with the concept. As I write this, Movie Robot’s sequel is under production and slated to release in 2017.
Coming to the business side of it, now we can see lot of robots being used by businesses. In countries like japan, robots have been in use in different forms and for different purposes. It has powered economies like that of South Korea, which has the world’s highest robot density of 478 robots per 10,000 human workers. If you take India, company like Grey Orange provides warehouse automation solutions to India’s e-commerce and logistics companies with robots that can move materials and automate sorting and routing of packages. There are also many other robots like the Roomba (floor cleaning Robots), I2U2 robot (telepresence robot), Dosamatic (table top dosa making machine) who are successful in their space. One side physical robots like these have started to grow everywhere in the world. All these robots have a physical structure to it which you can touch and see. There are others which are virtual robots which will not have a physical structure but you can feel its presence. This is what is called as bots.
Bots otherwise called as virtual assistants are created to help humans with decision making. Bots have been given lot of attention after Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook and Satya Nadella CEO of Microsoft spoke about how this technology is going to play an important role. This is what both have to say about bots.
“I think advances in AI can help save people’s lives,” Zuckerberg said. He pointed out that the AI used to develop social tools is the same kind doctors can use to save lives. So, he said, Facebook is open-sourcing its AI tools. “We can all make progress together.” Facebook knows it can’t build all the bots. That’s why it announced a way for brands to build their own chatbots for Facebook Messenger. One of the ideas is to turn Messenger into an e-commerce hub, where people can buy things directly from bots made by big brands.
“Bots are now learning in human context and the relevant thing for us is to make them intelligent as we learn from customers’ experience says Nadella.
Chatbots can be used to perform functions like reminding you about an appointment, waking you up, compose an email, book travel plans, can order food, help you with shopping, payments and even can be used to do accounting for your business. The solutions it can bring are endless. Chatbots will have a great impact on Apps. If you take apps, you need to install lot of apps to avail each of the service. Imagine a scenario, you have one app and it does all the work that can be done installing 100s of apps. This is the change which Facebook is planning to do with its messenger service.
To put it rightly, Zuckerberg has opened up their messenger platform for developers to use its services to integrate their customers, prospects and grow their business. This has made lot of investors to look at chatbots as a next big thing and have started funding companies that are into chatbots development. This will have two effects. The first effect would be people will stop developing apps and App will have no relevance in future. The second effect would be companies will be developing more bots for their businesses than apps.
Since people are so used to whatsapp and Facebook, zuckerberg wanted to use this space to develop an opportunity for businesses to stay connected with their customers and prospects using the bot technology. That may be one of the reason behind integrating Facebook data and whats app data together. Just imagine if you could manage every little work of yours using fb messenger and whats app. Will you not feel that your life is easy? That kind of solution is what chatbots can give you. But at the same time if the chatbots are not developed properly, it can backfire a company’s reputation. From the company’s perspective chatbots can be a boon or pain depending on how they create their bot.
Coming to our topic whether Chat bots is the next big thing, Yes it indeed has the potential to become big. Make a note of the statement “Potential to become big” which means it can grow big or fall fast depending on how the companies and users look at it. But the companies developing bots should keep in mind on how to use artificial intelligence (AI) and user interface (UI) in their bots. Using AI in bot development is crucial but at the same time your UI should complement it.
Let me explain you from a user perspective. If a user can communicate to a bot with an option to choose the answers, it will be much easier for the user rather than typing text for every query. Say for example, the user wants to have dinner near his house. Let’s say he asks bot “I want to have dinner outside today”. Immediately your bot should reply with buttons like “near home” or “Choose location” and also should come with answers like “Veg” or “Non-veg” “No of people” “Budget”. The moment the user selects these details, he will get an answer with the list of restaurants with ratings and offers. The user can click and book the table. That’s it.
From the above scenario, what we can understand is that the user need not type too many texts. If we give the user to select instead of typing the user will like it. Let us take the same scenario of “I want to have dinner outside today”. If the bot is developed based on text then the answer would be, “Where do you want to have dinner?” This response will lead to another response to be typed by the user. This will continue till he gets the answer on “how to book the table”. The user will lose his patience and he may call the restaurant directly for table booking.
Most of the bots currently in the market fail to address this issue. They concentrate more on AI and not much importance is given to UI. If you take the first scenario both the AI & UI complement each other and it makes the user to get the results much quicker. If you are developing a text based chat bot, then you may also face the problem of language and grammatical errors. Users are so used to type short forms. So it is important to know the different short forms available at different countries before developing your AI.
So it is a million dollar question at this point of time whether bots are going to rule the world forever. But we can definitely say, as of now companies feel that bots can be a solution to manage their customers, employees, vendors and prospects with ease. For sure bigger companies will develop bots in a logical way to provide solutions. But companies who develop bots just for the sake of having their own bot will not add much value. As far as the Robots vs. Bots are concerned, both will co-exist and each will have its own share of importance.
To know more about bots or if you want to experience a bot developed for managing your accounts you can watch this space.