As people research, they want the information they need as quickly as possible and are increasingly turning to voice search as the technology advances. Email inboxes have become more and more cluttered, so buyers have moved to social media to follow the brands they really care about. Ultimately, they now have the control — the ability to opt out, block, and unfollow any brand that betrays their trust.
What began as a televised ad campaign eventually became a fully interactive chatbot developed for PG Tips’ parent company, Unilever (which also happens to own an alarming number of the most commonly known household brands) by London-based agency Ubisend, which specializes in developing bespoke chatbot applications for brands. The aim of the bot was to not only raise brand awareness for PG Tips tea, but also to raise funds for Red Nose Day through the 1 Million Laughs campaign.
A chatbot (also known as a talkbots, chatterbot, Bot, IM bot, interactive agent, or Artificial Conversational Entity) is a computer program or an artificial intelligence which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods. Such programs are often designed to convincingly simulate how a human would behave as a conversational partner, thereby passing the Turing test. Chatbots are typically used in dialog systems for various practical purposes including customer service or information acquisition. Some chatterbots use sophisticated natural language processing systems, but many simpler systems scan for keywords within the input, then pull a reply with the most matching keywords, or the most similar wording pattern, from a database.
Simply put, chatbots are computer programs designed to have conversations with human users. Chances are you’ve interacted with one. They answer questions, guide you through a purchase, provide technical support, and can even teach you a new language. You can find them on devices, websites, text messages, and messaging apps—in other words, they’re everywhere.
Prashant Sridharan, Twitter’s global director of developer relations says: “I’ve seen a lot of hyperbole around bots as the new apps, but I don’t know if I believe that. I don’t think we’re going to see this mass exodus of people stopping building apps and going to build bots. I think they’re going to build bots in addition to the app that they have or the service they provide,” as reported by re/code.
Die Herausforderung bei der Programmierung eines Chatbots liegt in der sinnvollen Zusammenstellung der Erkennungen. Präzise Erkennungen für spezielle Fragen werden dabei ergänzt durch globale Erkennungen, die sich nur auf ein Wort beziehen und als Fallback dienen können (der Bot erkennt grob das Thema, aber nicht die genaue Frage). Manche Chatbot-Programme unterstützen die Entwicklung dabei über Priorisierungsränge, die einzelnen Antworten zuzuordnen sind. Zur Programmierung eines Chatbots werden meist Entwicklungsumgebungen verwendet, die es erlauben, Fragen zu kategorisieren, Antworten zu priorisieren und Erkennungen zu verwalten. Dabei lassen manche auch die Gestaltung eines Gesprächskontexts zu, der auf Erkennungen und möglichen Folgeerkennungen basiert („Möchten Sie mehr darüber erfahren?“). Ist die Wissensbasis aufgebaut, wird der Bot in möglichst vielen Trainingsgesprächen mit Nutzern der Zielgruppe optimiert. Fehlerhafte Erkennungen, Erkennungslücken und fehlende Antworten lassen sich so erkennen. Meist bietet die Entwicklungsumgebung Analysewerkzeuge, um die Gesprächsprotokolle effizient auswerten zu können. Ein guter Chatbot erreicht auf diese Weise eine mittlere Erkennungsrate von mehr als 70 % der Fragen. Er wird damit von den meisten Nutzern als unterhaltsamer Gegenpart akzeptiert.
Just last month, Google launched its latest Google Assistant. To help readers get a better glimpse of the redesign, Google’s Scott Huffman explained: “Since the Assistant can do so many things, we’re introducing a new way to talk about them. We’re them Actions. Actions include features built by Google—like directions on Google Maps—and those that come from developers, publishers, and other third parties, like working out with Fitbit Coach.”
According to the Journal of Medical Internet Research, "Chatbots are [...] increasingly used in particular for mental health applications, prevention and behavior change applications (such as smoking cessation or physical activity interventions).". They have been shown to serve as a cost-effective and accessible therapeutic agents for indications such as depression and anxiety. A conversational agent called Woebot has been shown to significantly reduce depression in young adults.
Interface designers have come to appreciate that humans' readiness to interpret computer output as genuinely conversational—even when it is actually based on rather simple pattern-matching—can be exploited for useful purposes. Most people prefer to engage with programs that are human-like, and this gives chatbot-style techniques a potentially useful role in interactive systems that need to elicit information from users, as long as that information is relatively straightforward and falls into predictable categories. Thus, for example, online help systems can usefully employ chatbot techniques to identify the area of help that users require, potentially providing a "friendlier" interface than a more formal search or menu system. This sort of usage holds the prospect of moving chatbot technology from Weizenbaum's "shelf ... reserved for curios" to that marked "genuinely useful computational methods".