One of the most exciting things about the rise of chatbots is their use of artificial intelligence — especially machine learning — to mass-accomplish tasks that neither an army of interns nor an army of experts could match, and to derive wisdom beyond that of the crowd by analyzing the crowd’s billions of conversations with cold math.
Yet anyone who chats with a few bots knows the frequent frustration: There are basically two kinds of chatbots in early 2017, while natural language processing is still learning to understand human conversational speech: Bots that risk trying to parse anything you type at them, and bots that limit your input to a few safe option buttons.
This discovery pattern applies to products, media (songs, movies), vacations, etc.
The bot can help surface options quickly to start, driving to a call to purchase when the user’s ready to pull the trigger.”Vivek Ramesh, an engineer and entrepreneur with several startups, says not everything works best as a bot: “A flight booking bot would ask far too many questions and this defeats the purpose of simplicity.
In practice, natural language processing — NLP to anyone in the field — isn’t there yet.
But in the right contexts for the right applications, NLP can make for an easier-to-use interface to features and services.
Thomas says NLP can be a buzzkill in the wrong context: “When you have a visual medium and buttons can accomplish the task in a couple clicks (think easy re-order), open-ended natural language is not making the user’s life easier.”Humans seem hardwired to stall at menus with more than five to seven options on them, though (a limit stressed in my old Apple user interface guide for programmers, but ignored by nearly every software maker since.) Rather than present a banking customer with 31 options at once, a chatbot can take away customers’ confusion and obscurity by asking them to tell it what they want, like a human banker behind a window in a branch office.
It works in personal banking, because there are a finite number of transactions which the bank is expected to perform.
He’s a computer scientist who worked for several years with Nuance, makers of the popular Dragon series of voice-interface applications.Octane AI, which publishes Chatbots Magazine, currently opts for the button approach. Bot developers will tell you that it depends what your bot is trying to accomplish.