Chatbots are certainly not a new technology, but the recent surge in interest is playing a very important role in the evolution of artificial intelligence: Chatbots are helping A.I. become publicly accessible and accepted. Even with all the technological advances we have seen over the past few years, there is still a fairly large disconnect between technology and the general public and businesses, particularly in the case of A.I.
A.I. has been a taboo subject, an issue that I have had to face and tackle in my personal and business life. From valid concerns about jobs lost through automation, to slightly more existential warnings from Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, to worries raised by films like The Terminator, The Matrix, and I, Robot, A.I. has not had a very good start, with most people fearing the advancements of this life-changing technology.
Through chatbots, people have taken a step back from these fears and begun to accept that A.I. is part of our lives now. Although they have been using A.I. in their everyday life for many years on platforms such as Facebook and Google, they haven’t seemed to really be aware of it or they have turned a blind eye to it. With thousands of bots out there now, A.I. is now hard to ignore, and the public are being drawn to bots, finding out for the first time what it’s like to engage with an artificial entity.
Despite the obvious benefits chatbots are providing, they’re a very small part of a more advanced technology. So where are we heading after the chatbots?
For me the answer to that is fairly easy, as it is exactly what I have been working on for a number of years now — fully A.I.-integrated applications. When I first began getting involved in A.I, I had one goal: to create an A.I that was capable of assisting me and my clients with physically running their business, an A.I. that would become an artificial member of staff. This bot could not only communicate with other team members but also have access to the core functionality of the systems they live on, the ability to interact with their surroundings, and be able to carry out tasks that free up valuable human resources.
My current solutions include a range of A.I. technologies, including natural linguistics, machine vision, speech recognition, and speech synthesis. With exception to natural linguistics, most of these technologies are not currently implemented in chatbots.
In addition to assisting team members, another major role that A.I. will play is interacting directly with clients or site visitors, similar to the way chatbots currently interact with humans now but providing a much more effective service. Most chatbots are accessible by a textual UI, but this is a very primitive way of communicating with an A.I., and this is one of the things I have focused on improving for while. In addition to providing a more slick UI, I also implemented voice recognition and voice synthesis. This means the A.I. can actually listen to customers and speak back to them without them ever having to touch their keyboard or mouse. There are still some limitations with voice recognition technology as a whole at the moment, but as time goes on I thoroughly believe that these features will play a key a role in all A.I. applications.
As an example of how the abovementioned will help businesses, I have been working on implementing these capabilities with an ecommerce system to provide not just an online store within a chatbot but an artificially intelligent ecommerce store. I have teamed up with Api.ai, recently acquired by Google, to integrate their state-of-the-art natural linguistics platform to enhance the user experience.
From a visitor’s point of view, they can navigate the store, speak to the A.I. to identify products or services they are interested in, and manage their cart and account, all by simply interacting with the A.I. via speech or text. From a business owner’s point of view, their A.I. comes pretrained with the ability to seamlessly learn the products added to the store and how to interact with the front end, allowing the A.I. to assist site visitors. Through the GUI, businesses can train their A.I. exactly how they want, allowing them to mold their A.I. in a way that best fits the image of their business.
For me, chatbots will not replace applications or websites — they are simply a stepping stone to a world where the applications and websites are themselves artificially intelligent. Once the public begins to become more accustomed to chatbots, they are not going to want to continually click on buttons or flick through cards until they find what they want; they will want to interact, find what they want, and get out of there. I believe that fully A.I. integrated solutions will be the next natural stage in the evolution of chatbots and A.I. for business.