The Future of Chatbots: Predictions From Industry Leaders
Blimey, a bit keen isn’t it? Most of the content we produce is on how modern-day chatbots are still finding their feet. Here I am starting to warble on about the future of chatbots and make wild and crazy guestimates on things we might see in the future.
Well, as Mahatma Gandhi wrote it,
“The future depends on what you do today.”
And that’s true with technology, particularly technology that moves relatively quickly from research to commerce, like NLP and ML.
It’s you readers, business owners, marketers and everyone learning, implementing and getting results from chat technology paving the way forward.
And it’s you developers, designers, researchers and geeks who are studying, testing and scratching heads fuelling the growth.
So, where is conversational software technology going? (That’s my favourite fancy term for chatbots, by the way).
Are we working towards a Gene Roddenberry Star Trek-esque communicator? One tap of a device and you’re talking naturally to a machine? A machine that knows your context, surroundings, what you’ve just done and what you need to do?
Or, are we stuck with awkward website popups and clunky one-trick-pony Facebook Messenger chatbots?
As it stands, the business world is going coo-coo for text-based customer service, sales, and internal communication solutions. I think there will always be a place for text chatbots. After all, who’s going to walk down the street talking out loud to an AI doctor about an itch somewhere private?
But, voice chatbots will most certainly dominate at home. Google and Amazon have already invested heavily and are showing no signs of slowing down. Alexa, Google Assistant, and perhaps Siri when Apple gets going, will be reading headlines, calendars and making personal health suggestions to the majority of the population. Not just the early adopter geeks.
Very soon, within years, the majority of businesses will recognise the power of being omnipresent across all messaging channels. They’ll be available wherever and whenever the consumer wants them. No more ‘download our app’, ‘contact us on email’ or call ‘0800 blah blah’. Commerce will be competing for consumer attention via text and voice, all through the users' preferred channel.
The future of chatbots is more than 'just' conversational
Straight from the mouth of a chief geek, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella said,
“Chatbots will fundamentally revolutionize how computing is experienced by everybody.”
If you think about a human using a computer to visit a website, it’s actually quite a complicated process.
You start with buying the darn thing. CPU this, RAM that and do I need an SSD?
You get it home, figure out how to wire it all up (is that a USB or a HDMI?) and power through the questions in the first time setup.
Then it comes to life, and we have to know how to use a keyboard and mouse to input commands, understand what a mouse pointer is, how to click and how to use an operating system.
Things then start to get more complicated. Downloading drivers, connecting to a network and the internet then figuring out what it is and where to type a website URL.
Finally, you land on the website; you have to understand the UX, where and what to click, what a form is and how to go back if you mess things up.
'OMG it’s not that hard,' you say. And yes, you’re right, for some users it’s okay, they can do enough to get by.
But, what if you are disabled and can’t get to a shop, are blind, have no hearing or lost a hand? What if you are elderly and didn’t grow up attached to your mobile phone?
An eMarketer study shows we now spend on average >4Hrs on our mobile phones.
Not so easy now.
This is a mere sample of the revolution chatbots will bring.
Chatbots aren’t ‘just’ a conversational interface. They are the lowest barrier to entry to a machine humanity has ever seen.
Within my lifetime, the world’s information will be available to humans in a way we’ve been refining and improving for 100,000 years.
Natural human language.
Getting information from a machine will be as simple as communicating to a fellow human being.
Time is the 21st centry's currency
Barriers to entry aside, Gary Vee’s quote perfectly summarises my next point,
“We value time over human interactions”.
According to Gartner, by 2020, 85% of customer interactions with a business will be managed without a human.
Humans want things to become easier, faster and more efficient then they did in the past. That’s kinda what we do, we’re inherently lazy beasts and strive to walk the path with the lowest friction.
Chatbots, AI and machines are going to revolutionise how we work and live our personal lives.
If you think about it, jobs are just tasks. Of course, some are more complex than others but, ultimately, at work, we sit or stand and complete a series of tasks.
We are going to complete more and more of these tasks by working side-by-side with a machine which we talk to via a chatbot.
It’s already happening.
Trawling Google Analytics to find insight has already been engineered into a Slack command, updates from Xero can be done via Facebook Messenger and chatbots can communicate and filter potential new employees 24/7. Chatbot powered machines are going to be completing more and more of these ‘job’ tasks.
Of course, us annoying humans will create a whole new bunch of tasks for them to do instead.
New job titles, roles, and tasks we can’t even begin to comprehend will soon emerge.
To put this statement in more relatable terms, would your grandparents have contemplated earning money by streaming video games or traveling the world getting paid to write computer code?
Current jobs will evolve, and new jobs will involve us working closely with technology. Some will include helping the machine do the entire task, some will have humans monitoring, and others will be done without us even knowing. Chatbot to chatbot communication may even remove further steps.
This is nothing new.
It is precisely what happened during the industrial revolution when everything became non-human powered.
Technology may create more jobs than it takes away, but, these human jobs won’t be based on emulating what machines can do. They won’t include terms like efficiency, routine or productivity. Machines will do all of that.
Human jobs will concentrate on the things only humans can do.
Things like experimentation, science, innovation, exploration, and creativity will be for us. Routine, mundane, repetition and processing will be for the machines.
Fluent machine-human chat technology will take away the routine, the efficiency and productivity-based tasks to enable us to do what we do best: imagine and create.
The perfect co-worker
The next point is what excites me the most, and I’m going to write a whole separate post about it. In summary, humans and bots become one.
We won’t need to use ‘language’, we will bring in information directly to our minds with just a thought.
The average person writes 40 words per minute and speaks up to 140. Imagine humanity when the world’s information is just a thought away. Speaking and typing? How massively inefficient.
But, alas, I think this is decades away. I just hope Kurzweil’s Singularity happens, so I get to experience it.
After all, at the moment, only around half of humanity even use the internet.
In a few decades, we’ll look back at 2017 and realise we hadn’t even scratched the surface of chatbots, machine-humans, and conversational commerce.
We have just crossed the starting line of chatbot and machine-human technology; we’re in the first minute of its creation.
The type of chatbot technology every single human will be connected with hasn’t even been invented yet. It probably hasn’t even been imagined.
What is your take on this? Is the future of a chatbot just better, more natural communication with a user? Is it just a battle for the accuracy of response? Or, is the future of chatbots based purely on the underlying connections to other services? Perhaps it is something else?