Computers are the basic necessity of everyone’s life and therefore have been evolving over a period of time. The latest evolving technology is conversational computing for the business world.
Chatterbots are already in use and can search the internet for the user and help to find interesting stories all over the web. A Chatterbots (also known as Talkbot, Chabot, Bot, Artificial Conversational Entity) is a computer program which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods. Chatterbots are typically used in dialog systems for various practical purposes like customer service or information acquisition.
There are two main types of Chatterbots, one functions based on a set of rules, and the other more advanced version uses artificial Intelligence.
In 1966, decades before the emergence of personal computing, computer scientists Joseph Weizenbaum of the MIT artificial intelligence laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, wrote a short program that went down in software history. The program seemed to be able to fool users into believing that they were conversing with a real Human. However, Weizenbaum himself did not claim that ELIZA was genuinely intelligent. However, it was the first Chabot in history.
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Imitating a psychologist, this simple program recognized certain keywords and phrases typed by the user, and responded in surprisingly amazing –sometimes just repeating back the user’s own words. For example,
User: Men are all alike
Computer: IN WHAT WAY?
User: Well, my boyfriend made me come here
Computer: YOUR BOYFRIEND MADE YOU COME HERE?
User: He says I’m depressed much of the time
Computer: I AM SORRY TO HEAR YOU ARE DEPRESSED
Thus, the program creates an illusion of understanding everything, even though the processing is superficial. Eliza showed that it’s easy to generate such illusions.
Lili Cheng is the manager of Microsoft’s Future Social Experiences (FUSE) lab at Microsoft Research, and one of the thought leaders behind the Chabot evolution. She says that Bots have a lot of advantages. “You don’t have to follow the rigid structure of a website to find something. You can just ask.”
Indeed, Singapore’s Jamie Bot has been so successful that she – is being substantially enhanced. Singapore recently announced a partnership with Microsoft to evolve from basic question-and-answer capabilities to perform simple tasks and over time the ability to handle interactions with an individual, like, “How much do I owe in taxes?”
How bots will transform computing
For business, the transformation of conversational computing is just the beginning. As bots are connected to corporate databases, they will simplify tasks from onsite repairs to scheduling meetings into simple conversational actions like, “What parts do I need to fix this” or what time the meeting will be held?”
At the US Government Services Agency, a Bot named “Dolores Landingham” (named after fictional President Jed Bartlet’s assistant in the TV show “The West Wing”) helps new employees fill out forms and understand departmental jargon.
The popular Bot released by Microsoft in China, called XiaoIce is able to respond to the users’ emotional cues.
Bots and the intelligent cloud
Today, if a customer has a question to ask then they will search for the answer on your company’s Frequently Asked Questions” (the ubiquitous FAQ) page. But what if the user is able to question loudly to a listening computer?
The new feature of Microsoft’s bot provides this facility: It allows you to transform your FAQ into a real bot, and deploy it in the Microsoft Azure cloud, available to all your customers on any device.
Eventually, by taking advantage of the massive data storage and mining capabilities available in the cloud, bots will get to know you, providing intelligent suggestions like, “While you’re on-site with the customer, I’d suggest examining the engine gearbox, I’m seeing some early failures in other installs,” and learning from previous experiences: “Did the fix I suggested last time help?