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Yesterday’s whirlwind episode of VB Engage with Joel Comm left our imaginations racing. We discussed Snapchat, live video, and being an Internet pioneer, as well as ’80s video games and talking shadows.

So what could be better than to get into some future gazing today? Chatbots are all the rage right now, so Stewart and Travis attempt to gaze into the crystal ball and figure out what the future holds. Then, A.I. expert Sarah Austin tells us what is really going to happen, since she’s much more qualified to predict what lies ahead than we are.


At the recent Google I/O developer conference, Google launched a new messenger app — Allo. As he often does, Stewart calls out a problem with the naming strategy, since there is already another messaging app called Allo.IM. Google has done this before with Huddle, and lost the battle even though the “real” Huddle is a much smaller company. And Google also did the same thing when it renamed “Huddle” to “Messenger,” since Facebook had already launched its Messenger app.

We get to spend time with Sarah, who is CEO and founder of Broad Listening, chair of the board at Coding FTW, and who was also on the Bravo reality TV series, Startups: Silicon Valley.

“Voice assistance, A.I., and chatbots are all very hot right now,” she confirmed. “Everyone wants to build one! There is a reason that all of these companies are trying to compete with Siri. It’s because everybody in business is going to end up with an interface to their data, which is voice, chat, and email. Assistants help us with decisions.”

The chatbot, A.I., and artificial assistant space is huge. At least $30 billion has already been invested in this area of artificial intelligence so far. Merrill Lynch and Bank of America estimate that one out of every two jobs will be replaced by A.I. in the future, and the World Economic Forum estimates that 1 in 3 jobs are going to be replaced by bots.

For the enterprise, it’s going to look a lot like an email interface, as voice functions will take a while to gain maturity. Sending an email to your A.I. assistant will become the norm for many. The threat to jobs is obvious. Why have a human perform in a week what a bot can manage in six hours?

We run through a few examples, including this one: “I’m throwing a conference, I need you to get me all of these potential venues for this conference, and I need the best deal. I want you to get me all of the bids and the availability.” In the future, your bot will go out and talk to the bots of the hotels, and the bots will do the negotiations and give you the right information to make the best decision.

But what happens when the bots start to lie? We pose that question to Sarah, and you can hear her answer in today’s episode.

We also get into the obvious question around A.I. and physical robots — will they try to replace us? Skynet could happen, right?

Sarah is spending her time building emotional intelligence for bots so that they don’t try to take over the planet. She says that robots won’t have empathy, but they will eventually understand empathy. You never know, perhaps soon we will all have our own private Jarvis!

In our next episode, we talk with marketing technologist Mayur Gupta, senior vice president of digital at Health Grades. Don’t miss it!

Thanks for tuning in for our launch week, and we’ll now return you to the normal schedule — a new episode of VB Engage will hit the airwaves every Tuesday.


Thanks to our launch sponsor Braintree for helping to make VB Engage possible. 

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