Chatbot technology is the collection of programs, techniques, and features that allow humans to communicate with a machine via text or voice.
In less geeky terms, it is everything that allows us to chat with a robot, get a response, and engage in an actual conversation.
In this article, I want to go further than the simple definition of what chatbot technology is. I will take a swift walk down memory lane, give you an overview of where we are now, and try to give my thoughts on the future of this exciting industry.
Where does chatbot technology come from?
We are quite fortunate to live in a time where humans talking to machines is no longer science fiction. Not so long ago, the simple thought of it may have sent you to a loony institute.
There is a lot of literature on the birth of chatbots. We recently drilled down on the history of chatbots and put together a nice document for you to read. I suggest you grab it.
Not everyone is included in this document, though.
For instance, Ada Lovelace is not represented in there. Her work might be the most influential of all, shaping the future as we now know it.
Back in her days, 1843, 'computers' were people who computed numbers all day every day. Ada dreamt of a machine that could do it all, bypassing human error and literally saving lives. So she did what all inventors do: she went ahead and built it.
Ada built the very first computer and the very first programming language to power it. Often attributed to her is the very first thought that humans could interact with a machine to extract everything we could ever need.
From 1843 to Alan Turing in 1950 to Weizenbaum in 1966, the history of chatbots is long and fascinating. Give it a read.
Where are we now?
Today, it seems chatbots are everywhere. In all fairness, ubisend might be slightly responsible for that. People love what we do, what can I say?
With the world's largest mobile messaging applications opening their APIs, we have seen everyone jumping at the opportunity to build bots.
Now, most of the bots out there are somewhat simple or even downright stupid. Flow chatbots (which represent the vast majority of the chatbots built on Facebook Messenger, for instance) could barely hold the title of 'chatbot' in my opinion.
Away from the public eye, chatbots are revolutionising industries like HR or customer service. Working from within the world's largest companies' closed doors, they are speeding processes up, freeing resources, and increasing productivity across the board. Today, we talk about intents, utterances, and ML-powered interactions (don't know what these are? Catch up with our Essential Chatbot Glossary for Non-Geeks!).
This is where we are now. Chatbots are slowly spreading their wings, and consumers and businesses alike are starting to see the light.
What can we expect from chatbot technology in the future?
Tough one. Our CEO recently wrote a piece of the future of chatbots, which is worth a read. I can't say I disagree with anything he has put in there.
I believe we are going to see great improvement in the domain of voice interactions. At the moment, we are limited by our own inhibitions. Who wants to talk to a machine out loud in public? I don't, but future generations might.
I think there is still a lot (read, everything) to do in terms of awareness. While consumers and businesses are, indeed, starting to see the light, I think there are too many people still in the dark.
The way forward is from within companies. As more and more companies deploy chatbot automation or conversational interfaces to help them achieve things faster/stronger/better, more and more individuals will get exposed to the benefits of chatbots.
This is how the news will spread; through amazing chatbot experiences.