Artificial neural networks, invented in the 1940’s, are a way of calculating an output from an input (a classification) using weighted connections (“synapses”) that are calculated from repeated iterations through training data. Each pass through the training data alters the weights such that the neural network produces the output with greater “accuracy” (lower error rate).
Earlier, I made a rather lazy joke with a reference to the Terminator movie franchise, in which an artificial intelligence system known as Skynet becomes self-aware and identifies the human race as the greatest threat to its own survival, triggering a global nuclear war by preemptively launching the missiles under its command at cities around the world. (If by some miracle you haven’t seen any of the Terminator movies, the first two are excellent but I’d strongly advise steering clear of later entries in the franchise.)
In this article, we shed a spotlight on 7 real-world chatbots/virtual assistants across industries that are in action and reaping value for their parent companies. From streamlined operations and saved human productivity to increased customer engagement, the following examples are worth a read if you’ve ever considered leveraging chatbot technology for your business (or are curious about the possibilities).
What does the Echo have to do with conversational commerce? While the most common use of the device include playing music, making informational queries, and controlling home devices, Alexa (the device’s default addressable name) can also tap into Amazon’s full product catalog as well as your order history and intelligently carry out commands to buy stuff. You can re-order commonly ordered items, or even have Alexa walk you through some options in purchasing something you’ve never ordered before.
Automation will be central to the next phase of digital transformation, driving new levels of customer value such as faster delivery of products, higher quality and dependability, deeper personalization, and greater convenience. Last year, Forrester predicted that automation would reach a tipping point — altering the workforce, augmenting employees, and driving new levels of customer value. Since then, […]
Back to our earlier example, if a bot doesn’t know the word trousers and a user corrects the input to pants, the bot will remember the connection between those two words in the future. The more words and connections that a bot is exposed to, the smarter it gets. This process is similar to that of human learning. Our capacity for memory and synthesis is part of what makes us unique, and we’re teaching our best tricks to bots.
Feine, J., Morana, S., and Maedche, A. (2019). “Leveraging Machine-Executable Descriptive Knowledge in Design Science Research ‐ The Case of Designing Socially-Adaptive Chatbots”. In: Extending the Boundaries of Design Science Theory and Practice. Ed. by B. Tulu, S. Djamasbi, G. Leroy. Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 76–91. Download Publication
Chatbots currently operate through a number of channels, including web, within apps, and on messaging platforms. They also work across the spectrum from digital commerce to banking using bots for research, lead generation, and brand awareness. An increasing amount of businesses are experimenting with chatbots for e-commerce, customer service, and content delivery.
The main challenge is in teaching a chatbot to understand the language of your customers. In every business, customers express themselves differently and each group of a target audience speaks its own way. The language is influenced by advertising campaigns on the market, the political situation in the country, releases of new services and products from Google, Apple and Pepsi among others. The way people speak depends on their city, mood, weather and moon phase. An important role in the communication of the business with customers may have the release of the film Star Wars, for example. That’s why training a chatbot to understand correctly everything the user types requires a lot of efforts.
A malicious use of bots is the coordination and operation of an automated attack on networked computers, such as a denial-of-service attack by a botnet. Internet bots can also be used to commit click fraud and more recently have seen usage around MMORPG games as computer game bots.[citation needed] A spambot is an internet bot that attempts to spam large amounts of content on the Internet, usually adding advertising links. More than 94.2% of websites have experienced a bot attack.[2]

Cheyer explains Viv like this. Imagine you need to pick up a bottle of wine that goes well with lasagna on the way to your brother's house. If you wanted to do that yourself, you'd need to determine which wine goes well with lasagna (search #1) then find a wine store that carries it (search #2) that is on the way to your brother's house (search #3). Once you have that figured out, you have to calculate what time you need to leave to stop at the wine store on the way (search #4) and still make it to his house on time.
“To be honest, I’m a little worried about the bot hype overtaking the bot reality,” said M.G. Siegler, a partner with GV, the investment firm formerly known as Google Ventures. “Yes, the high level promise of what bots can offer is great. But this isn’t going to happen overnight. And it’s going to take a lot of experimentation and likely bot failure before we get there.”
Cheyer explains Viv like this. Imagine you need to pick up a bottle of wine that goes well with lasagna on the way to your brother's house. If you wanted to do that yourself, you'd need to determine which wine goes well with lasagna (search #1) then find a wine store that carries it (search #2) that is on the way to your brother's house (search #3). Once you have that figured out, you have to calculate what time you need to leave to stop at the wine store on the way (search #4) and still make it to his house on time.
By 2022, task-oriented dialog agents/chatbots will take your coffee order, help with tech support problems, and recommend restaurants on your travel. They will be effective, if boring. What do I see beyond 2022? I have no idea. Amara’s law says that we tend to overestimate technology in the short term while underestimating it in the long run. I hope I am right about the short term but wrong about AI in 2022 and beyond! Who would object against a Starbucks barista-bot that can chat about weather and crack a good joke?

Kik Messenger, which has 275 million registered users, recently announced a bot store. This includes one bot to send people Vine videos and another for getting makeup suggestions from Sephora. Twitter has had bots for years, like this bot that tweets about earthquakes as soon as they’re registered or a Domino’s bot that allows you to order a pizza by tweeting a pizza emoji.
There was a time when even some of the most prominent minds believed that a machine could not be as intelligent as humans but in 1991, the start of the Loebner Prize competitions began to prove otherwise. The competition awards the best performing chatbot that convinces the judges that it is some form of intelligence. But despite the tremendous development of chatbots and their ability to execute intelligent behavior not displayed by humans, chatbots still do not have the accuracy to understand the context of questions in every situation each time.
Simple chatbots work based on pre-written keywords that they understand. Each of these commands must be written by the developer separately using regular expressions or other forms of string analysis. If the user has asked a question without using a single keyword, the robot can not understand it and, as a rule, responds with messages like “sorry, I did not understand”.

Before you even write a single line of code, it's important to write a functional specification so the development team has a clear idea of what the bot is expected to do. The specification should include a reasonably comprehensive list of user inputs and expected bot responses in various knowledge domains. This living document will be an invaluable guide for developing and testing your bot.

The chatbot is trained to translate the input data into a desired output value. When given this data, it analyzes and forms context to point to the relevant data to react to spoken or written prompts. Looking into deep learning within AI, the machine discovers new patterns in the data without any prior information or training, then extracts and stores the pattern.
Do the nature of our services and size of our customer base warrant an investment in a more efficient and automated customer service response? How can we offer a more streamlined experience without (necessarily) increasing costly human resources?  Amtrak’s website receives over 375,000 daily visitors, and they wanted a solution that provided users with instant access to online self-service.
Forrester Launches New Survey On AI Adoption There’s no doubt that artificial intelligence (AI) is top of mind for executives. AI adoption started in earnest in 2016, and Forrester anticipates AI investments to continue to increase. Leaders are quickly waking up to AI’s disruptive characteristics and the need to embrace this emerging technology to remain […]
As artificial intelligence continues to evolve (it’s predicted that AI could double economic growth rates by 2035), conversational bots are becoming a powerful tool for businesses worldwide. By 2020, it’s predicted that 85% of customers’ relationship with businesses will be handled without engaging a human at all. Businesses are even abandoning their mobile apps to adopt conversational bots.

For as long as I can remember, email has been a fundamentally important channel for a large majority of businesses. The ability to market products directly through a channel that scales up to an incredibly high ceiling is very attractive. The only problem is that it's costing more and more money to acquire email addresses from potential customers, and the engagement from email is getting worse and worse.
When you have a desperate need for a java fix with minimal human interaction and effort, this bot has you covered. According to a demo led by Gerri Martin-Flickinger, the coffee chain's chief technology officer, the bot even understands complex orders with special requests, like "double upside down macchiato half decaf with room and a splash of cream in a grande cup."
Chatfuel is a platform that lets you build your own Chatbot for Messenger (and Telegram) for free. The only limit is if you pass more than 100,000 conversations per month, but for most businesses that won't be an issue. No understanding of code is required and it has a simple drag-and-drop interface. Think Wix/Squarespace for bots (side note: I have zero affiliation with Chatfuel).
Not integrated. This goes hand-in-hand with the contextual knowledge, but chatbots often suffer from “death by data silo” where their access to data is limited. If a chatbot is “chatting with” a customer, they not only need to access the contextual data of their customer but also have access to every place where the answer to the customer’s question may reside. Product documentation site, customer community, different websites are all places where that answer can be.
Operator calls itself a “request network” aiming to “unlock the 90% of commerce that’s not on the internet.” The Operator app, developed by Uber co-founder Garrett Camp, connects you with a network of “operators” who act like concierges who can execute any shopping-related request. You can order concert tickets, get gift ideas, or even get interior design recommendations for new furniture. Operator seems to be positioning itself towards “high consideration” purchases, bigger ticket purchases requiring more research and expertise, where its operators can add significant value to a transaction.
Aside from being practical and time-convenient, chatbots guarantee a huge reduction in support costs. According to IBM, the influence of chatbots on CRM is staggering.  They provide a 99 percent improvement rate in response times, therefore, cutting resolution from 38 hours to five minutes. Also, they caused a massive drop in cost per query from $15-$200 (human agents) to $1 (virtual agents). Finally, virtual agents can take up an average of 30,000+ consumers per month.
The chatbot must rely on spoken or written communications to discover what the shopper or user wants and is limited to the messaging platform’s capabilities when it comes to responding to the shopper or user. This requires a much better understanding of natural language and intent. It also means that developers must write connections to several different platforms, again like Messenger or Slack, if the chatbot is to have the same potential reach as a website.
Chatbots are often used online and in messaging apps, but are also now included in many operating systems as intelligent virtual assistants, such as Siri for Apple products and Cortana for Windows. Dedicated chatbot appliances are also becoming increasingly common, such as Amazon's Alexa. These chatbots can perform a wide variety of functions based on user commands.
IBM estimates that 265 billion customer support tickets and calls are made globally every year, resulting in $1.3 trillion in customer service costs. IBM also referenced a Chatbots Magazine figure purporting that implementing customer service AI solutions, such as chatbots, into service workflows can reduce a business’ spend on customer service by 30 percent.
Previous generations of chatbots were present on company websites, e.g. Ask Jenn from Alaska Airlines which debuted in 2008[27] or Expedia's virtual customer service agent which launched in 2011.[27][28] The newer generation of chatbots includes IBM Watson-powered "Rocky", introduced in February 2017 by the New York City-based e-commerce company Rare Carat to provide information to prospective diamond buyers.[29][30]