bots at your service

February 23, 2017

880As an industry, we are on the cusp of a new frontier that pairs the power of natural human language with advanced machine intelligence—Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft said at
Build 2016.*
The recent launch of Google Allo ushers in an age of chatbots, where companies will increasingly rely on AI-based technologies for providing a seamless and personalized customer service experience. Will bot technology be at the forefront of the AI revolution globally?

Artificial Intelligence (AI), today, is receiving more traction than ever before, especially the field of conversational bots that has grown exponentially. The definition of bot stays simple—it is a software entity that converses with humans using AI. But with the advancements in AI, bots today have become more human-like and are being applied in a variety of applications.
For a long time, AI bots were unheard of and were mostly portrayed in sci-fi movies as super-intelligent entities that either help save the world or take over it. It all changed when big corporations announced their investment plans in AI—Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook have dived into AI-powered bot technologies and are investing huge chunks of money and time in developing AI. It is the recent involvement of these companies that has brought bots into the limelight. With the arrival of Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Assistant, it is pretty clear as to how much the ‘bot’ buzzword has caught on and where this trend is going to take the world in the coming years.

advantages
No matter which vertical a business operates in, it is imperative for it to see the rise of bots as a great opportunity—to connect with their customers at a whole new level that helps not only enhance customer-brand relationships but also personalize the customer service experience. Your customers do not have to download any special app to get connected, instead all they need to do is to open their favorite messaging app to start conversing with your bot.
Bots provide a highly personalized experience by filtering out user needs in chat sessions that can last for a minute or two. It is this aspect of personalization that is inspiring major ecommerce players to build bots that help their customers decide better on online purchases.
Apart from bringing your brand voice to life, an added advantage of using bots is that they enable great control over data mining and insights, which for some companies is a top business priority.
Since bots serve as potential candidates for replacing humans in key areas, companies with existing chat support systems may find it easier to migrate to automated bot-powered support systems—as they can make use of existing chat logs and other data collected from human-to-human conversations to calibrate the knowledge base of the bots. Not to mention that bots require only a fraction of the resources to operate when compared to hiring a human agent.
For companies looking to get involved in developing their own custom AI-based bot platform, it is important to make the first impression right especially when AI is involved. Being a developer-centric company, it was important that Revarn came up with a bot architecture that could be used by our developer base to create and publish bots on all major platforms. For this, we chose to design a bot authoring language—SIML—which provided solutions to many basic problems.
Coming up with such a successful language was not an easy task. We wanted users and expert developers to shape the development process. Hence, we changed our business model and gave free access to all individual developers and educational institutes to build their bots on our platform. The feedback was monumental and in a course of just one year, we had come up with key features that remain unparalleled.

alternative to apps
One of the reasons why apps are being threatened the most by bots is the fact that for users, chatting is a far more familiar experience when compared to using new apps with their custom-designed user interface. Also, unlike apps, it is less challenging to update and maintain a bot. Moreover, there are dozens of messaging platforms such as Telegram, Slack, WhatsApp, Skype, and WeChat that are being used worldwide, and these easily act as container platforms that provide a fertile ground for bot deployment.

risks involved
There are definitely a few caveats with respect to blindly jumping on the bandwagon of bots due to the fact that the technology is still in its infancy. Moreover, chat platforms may seem easier to master and develop upon, but the AI that is required to power intelligent and non-intrusive conversations with human users is a bit complicated. If your bot often would say, “I am sorry I do not understand your query,” your customers are likely to abandon the whole experience.
Companies initially must stick to simple conversational bots and scale up gradually. One must not put the entire reputation of one’s business and brand into the hands of software algorithms that tend to give derailed and nonsensical replies to users. A typical example would be how the bot named Tay from Microsoft tainted the company’s reputation after having transformed from a fun chat bot to a ‘racist’. Nonetheless, it was quickly taken offline before it did more damage.
Despite their tremendous potential, companies at the moment should rather use bots to improve the service delivered by their existing customer service agents instead of downright replacing them. In its essence, the secret lies in creating a hybrid system that merges responses by human agents with the ones generated by bots to cut
down on response time and resolve customer service
issues faster.

the future
When we first started as a small research group fiddling around AI technologies back in 2010, the demand for AI-based products in the country was not this high, but it was not long when we realized that it was gaining strong momentum. We first created Syn Virtual Assistant, a customizable platform for creating digital assistants for smart house and office projects, and later designed a language for creating intelligent bots. It took nearly six years of research before we could come up with stable frameworks but it was worth the investment.
During our course of developing AI-related products, it has become apparent that every aspect of AI comes with its own set of problems that need to be addressed in its entirety depending on the project at hand. AI is the holy grail of computer science, and intelligent conversational bots are developing new ways for AI technologies to help businesses get connected with their customers and build strong relationships.
As the young generation of today is willing to experiment with emerging AI technologies and are getting quite accustomed with bots, it is obvious they will soon be expecting bots to deliver seamless brand experiences with higher levels of personalization. The future of AI is as bright as ever, and indulging in bot technologies would be a great step forward for any company that wishes to be a part of the AI revolution.

* https://news.microsoft.com/en-au/2016/03/31/microsoft-outlines-intelligence-vision-and-announces-new-innovations-for-windows-10/#sm.00001po08peaflevsvzjb0qu023ke