Chatbots – The future of mobile apps

the world will soon move away from apps where Apple and Google rule into a phase dominated by chatbots”

Imagine yourself being able to do shopping, order food, play games, read news and do more things right within your messaging app with the help of chatbot. Sounds cool no, yeah! It’s really happening and it has already begun.

What is Chatbot?

According to techopedia, ”A chatbot is an artificial intelligence (AI) program that simulates interactive human conversation by using key pre-calculated user phrases and auditory signals.” In simple way, it is a service that you can interact with via chat interface.

Suppose you are buying shoes from Kaymu, then you would go to their website and surf around until you find your right choice but if Kaymu make a bot, you would simply be able to message Kaymu bot in your messenger app. It would ask what you are looking for and you would simply tell it. Then it will show you different matches for your choice and you will select the best option, mirroring the experience you would get while visiting a retail store.

Many companies have already started to use chatbots. David Marcus, the Vice President of Messaging Products at Facebook launched facebook messenger bot in facebook F8 conference last April and demonstrated how it looks like to do shopping from messenger bot.

An American news channel CNN has started chatbot service in facebook messenger which provides you with current news based on keywords you provide. These are very few examples.So with chatbots, the area of applications  are endless.

Why Chatbot is being the revolutionary service?

You might wonder why anyone would care about chatbots since they are simple text based services that run in messaging apps. But recent survey done by botgig.com shows that people are using messenger apps more than they are using social networks and this is a huge turning point. So, logically if you want to do online business, you want to build it where the people are. That place is now messenger apps. Hence, chatbots are the best way to get in front of the billions of people using messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, Viber, Google Hangout, Kik . Apart from business they’ll act as your interface with computers and smartphones, helping you check events or send a message to a friend and do that through a conversation instead of a mouse click or finger tap. Microsoft believes the world will soon move away from apps where Apple and Google rule into a phase dominated by chatbots.

There is hope that consumers will be keen on experimenting with bots to make things happen for them. It used to be like that in the mobile app world 4+ years ago. When somebody told you back then… ‘I have built an app for X’… You most likely would give it a try. Now, nobody does this. It is probably too late to build an app company as an indie developer. But with bots… consumers’ attention spans are hopefully going to be wide open/receptive again!”

Niko Bonatsos, Managing Director at General Catalyst

How do Chatbots work?

Basically, there are two types of chatbots. One functions on a set of rules and the most advanced other uses machine learning. Chatbot which function on set of rules can respond to specific commands only and it doesn’t know what you mean if you say anything wrong. But chatbot that uses machine learning functions on AI(Artificial Intelligence). You need not to be specific while giving commands since it understands common languages too. The best part of it is that it gets more smarter from the conversations it has with people.

What are the limitations of Chatbots?

Tay Chabot

Earlier this March, Microsoft launched it’s chatbot called Tay. She was designed to tell jokes, horoscopes, play games and hold a conversation. She used data from your profile and created a profile that would help her to have conversation with you. But within 24 hrs since she was launched, she began to post racist tweets. It was a huge embarrassment for Microsoft. The company didn’t program her to act like a Nazi but it simply didn’t prepare for the usual Internet trolls.

This is one of the major obstacle beside launching AI chatbots online since they can learn anything. Internet is full of irrational dirty minded people who try their prank on these innocent bots. So, the boundaries must be made so as to insure that they won’t learn anything that violates the peace and harmony of our world.

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Anish Bhusal

Currently he is an undegraduate computer engineering student at Institute of Engineering, Tribhuvan University.