The promising future of bots in the digital economy

Posted by media on April 13, 2017 at 9:00 AM

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In this blog we have already talked about the emergence of the fourth industrial revolution, an outbreak that frames  technological trends such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning and the Internet of Things, to mention just a few.

Today we want to talk about a specific innovation, bots, that are also a result of this latest technological revolution. In this post we are going to explain what a bot is, what is it for and what types of bots are already the most used ones by companies.  

This post is also available in Spanish.

What is a bot?

Bots are software products programmed to execute tasks automatically, such as making a reservation in a restaurant or ordering a bouquet of flowers without having to interact with any human being.

The history of bots goes back much further in time, even before the arrival of the Internet. Specifically, the birth of bots can be associated with the Turing Test that came out during the 1950s, and with a long list of robots that began with Eliza (1966), Parry (1972) or Jabberwacky (1981), and that has culminated recently with the well-known Siri, acquired by Apple in 2010.

With a history rich in appearances in cinema, literature and popular culture during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the great revolution of bots has consisted in moving from the mere automation of repetitive tasks to the power of making decisions based on filters or parameters incorporated in its programming.

This giant step makes bots available for any sector: banking, retail, insurance, transportation… In any of these areas, and in many others, bots are already faithful employees and instant problem solvers that make an increasingly greater contribution to the companies that decide to use them.

In fact, these programs are gaining ground in our society and different bot types are beginning to emerge. One of the most common examples are chatbots, which are bots capable of maintaining a conversation. Normally they are included in messaging apps, and are used to sell products or services by talking directly with the consumer.

How will bots of the future be?

In the short term, the trend points to a new generation of bots with an increased processing capacity and greater artificial intelligence. In the case of chatbots, the increasing widespread use of messaging apps all over the world will turn these bots into a normal way of interaction between consumers and companies.

Chatbots will also benefit from the increasingly more and more advanced natural language processing technologies. This technology will strengthen not only their interpretive capabilities, but also their ability to respond to a wider range of queries.

These steps are on track to validate the thesis of those who already call bots the new apps, arguing that visiting a web or managing an application to solve a problem will soon be a habit of the past that will be replaced by a much more simple action: ask a question to a chatbot and order it to carry out an action, therefore resolving the question or executing the task.


Challenges for the progress of bots

Intelligence level

The first challenge that bots face in this attempt to replace both web browsing and apps, as well as real people, is their level of intelligence. Despite the recent advances in AI, in many cases the intelligence of bots is almost identical to that of a newborn.

The challenge that bots reason under common sense goes back to the origins of robots and has inspired infinite science fiction works. But as of today this matter could not be any truer. For example, bots play an increasingly relevant role in the health sector, and it is not unreasonable to argue that in the short term we should teach them to explain to a patient the risks of undergoing a certain surgical intervention or opting for one or another medication.

Development and maintenance costs

Parallel to the challenge of intelligence, another obvious one is the still very high development and maintenance costs for these types of programs. In this sense, it is thought that initiatives such as those of Microsoft will become more common: Microsoft offers several of its machine learning technologies for rent. A similar initiative has been launched by Facebook, who has developed a bot store that allows companies to build their own chatbots and integrate them with Messenger. Some companies that are already using Facebook's customizable chatbots are Typeform, the airline company KLM, Burger King or Sephora.

User experience

The third challenge is that bots face a unique difficulty in terms of user experience. Different from other technologies, where users demand much less of the product, for virtual assistants many demand an intelligence and versatility similar to that of HAL 9000 - the supercomputer from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. For most of the people bots should always work well and give appropriate responses, otherwise they will be condemned to obsolescence.

Fortunately, in this sense many of the new generation of bots have been designed specialized, and mostly focus on understanding everything about very concrete conversations: for example, those needed to deliver food to a home, to manage our schedules, to receive reminders or news, etc. In this post you will find a list of companies that are using chatbots, classified by sector: “50 innovative ways brands use chatbots”. Has the time has arrived for your company to build theirs?  

This post is also available in Spanish.


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Topics: Digital Transformation

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