Community Blog Chatbots - Technology and the Future

Chatbots - Technology and the Future

This article discusses chatbots: what they are, how they work, and future possibilities. It also outlines how organizations can leverage the Alibaba Cloud Intelligent Service Robot.

By Alex Muchiri, an Alibaba Cloud MVP. He is the founder of Itesyl Technologies, a financial data and business banking solutions company.

Those of us in mid-twenties have already seen enough technology evolution in our lifespan than what our grandparents did in their entire lifetime. Kids born in the 2000s may find it hard to believe that at the turn of the century, the internet was a preserve of the higher classes in society. But how could you blame them when all they know is smartphones, YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp, laptops, and high-speed internet?

The smartphone brought us innovations in UI-based apps that enabled the digitization of many processes. Presently, technology is changing once again, this time driven by advances in machine learning and cloud computing. Now, there is a shift to conversational interfaces that have access to a wide array of backend services. While the conventional app is still useful, conversational-based tools promise easier access and quick response across varied applications and services. It is very common that you must have encountered a chatbot browsing some websites online. They are being used in sales, customer service, and marketing to do a lot of things.

Chatbots are the latest innovation geared towards simplifying the engagement of man and machine. They come in many flavors, from virtual assistants, engagement bots to productivity bots integrated to backend systems. While chatbots engage in real conversations, they are different from humans. Nonetheless, chatbots improve communication efficiency and reduce the time of service.

1) But, What Exactly are Chatbots?

In a nutshell, a chatbot is a software system employing artificial intelligence techniques such as natural language processing to engage users in conversations via a messaging channel. Some popular channels integrating bots include Facebook, Twitter, Slack, WhatsApp, and other messaging services and corporate websites. It is a promising technology and so far, provides the most advanced way to integrate human and machine communications seamlessly. One of the key advantages of chatbots is their ability to learn new techniques over time to provide more accurate responses.

2) How Chatbots Work?

First of all, chatbots are not natural language processors but they heavily depend on natural language interpretation. Chatbots identify the meaning of conversations or phrases provided by the end-user through the use of natural language processing algorithms to determine their needs. It will then prompt an appropriate response or action, such as calling an API. Chatbots depend upon natural language processing to correctly synthesize user input and detect slight differences in language.

The aim of building chatbots is to create machines that are reliable enough to mimic human intelligence and interaction. It is also sometimes referred to as the Turing test, a measure of a machine's cognitive ability, similar to a human characteristics index. User experience will be very different if chatbots can pass the Turing test and open up new possibilities in customer care and interactions. While the technology we have is not yet able to meet this difficult test, it is evolving quickly and grabbing attention to further advance its development. In the next section, we look at some of the future possibilities in the application of chatbots in everyday interaction.

3) Future Possibilities

Moving into the future, chatbots will become increasingly witty and will be used in various fields. With more advanced machine learning algorithms and larger training data sets, the Turing test will be met at some point in the future for better and more efficient interaction with humans.

Some of the major trends anticipated are:

  • Personalised assistants: Virtual assistants will become more capable of solving individual user's problems in a more personal manner. With access to multiple applications and user data, it is likely that a single assistant will be enough to serve a user in all their interactions with machines.
  • Fast response: With better algorithms and understanding, users will have most of their problems solved almost instantly. Today bots are used in simple scenarios, but bots of the future will include more sophisticated operations covering all aspects of customer engagement.
  • Transform communication: As robots evolve into sophisticated systems capable of handling complex and unexpected situations, we will see them taking over much of daily communication. This, coupled with their instantaneous access to more information when needed, will make them the ideal communication tool in banks, retail outlets, online platforms, and even delivery platforms.
  • Strong analytics: AI is already helping uncover meaning in mountains of data. Chatbots will employ the latest AI tools to help uncover insights and analyze collected user data for improved engagement.
  • Automated calls: Chatbots will become capable of calling users automatically and ask comprehensive questions within the context of their service delivery. They will clarify doubts, provide additional information, and even follow up with users.
  • Death of the UI: While this seems far-fetched, it is plausible to imagine a future where apps are no longer UI-based but have simple chat interfaces where users engage with the service they need without navigating across multiple app pages. The bot could make suggestions based on voice or text commands and the user can choose whatever product or service they require.

4) Alibaba Cloud Intelligent Service Robot

Alibaba Cloud's Intelligent Service Robot is a chatbot platform enabling users to send queries and receive answers on mobile apps, websites, and messaging apps. It is based on natural language processing with the ability to integrate domain-specific knowledge bases or custom dialogue flows. With the ability to integrate third-party APIs, Intelligent Robot can help fulfill orders or call some other backend service.

4.1 Key Features of Alibaba Cloud Intelligent Service Robot

  • Ontology-based Knowledge Base: The Alibaba Cloud Intelligent Service Robot incorporates an encyclopedic knowledge base that utilizes ontology models and Q&A patterns. This enhances the response rate.
  • Multi-channel Support: Users can deploy Intelligent Service Robot on several dialog-enabling channels including webpages, mobile apps, and official accounts.
  • Multiple Instance Creation: Customers of a brand can belong to various groups based on gender, age, preference, etc. To cater to all of them conveniently, you can create several instances of Intelligent Service Robot to meet the needs of different user groups.
  • Multi-language Dialogue Support: Deploy once and serve customers in many different languages.
  • Task Automation: The entire concept of bots is to replace manual dialogues with automated dialogues and tasks to ensure accuracy and responsiveness. You can execute task automation based on intent recognition allowing for prompt integration of Intelligent Service Robot with service processes and to trigger additional actions.

4.2 Benefits

  • Instant response: Intelligent Robot provides 24/7 online support and eliminates waiting time.
  • Natural conversation experience: Robots can deliver information and process queries in natural languages.
  • Fast deployment: Knowledge packages for multiple domains are available for quick configuration and deployment.
  • Comprehensive APIs: APIs allow flexible and custom online chat experience in tailored scenarios.

5) Conclusion

In this article, you learned about what chatbots are, how organizations are using them currently, and what the future of chatbots is. We also discussed how Alibaba Cloud helps you with the Intelligent Service Robot.

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