Little chatbot bubbles continue to appear more frequently in our digital lives.  I find myself using them most often when I can’t get a reasonable time estimate from a customer service line.  Talking to a human (especially one I can understand) is still my preferred way to resolve issues or get detailed information. But fortunately, some little chatbots are able to provide me much of what I need.  How much I end up actually liking these chatbots is on a case by case basis.

In the same techie family as chatbots are conversational agents (think chatbots you talk to instead of using little chat bubbles) and virtual assistants that do things for you like Siri and Alexa. Working with many software companies as I do, I’ve noticed that more and more apps are building in such tools. Oftentimes they have built-in artificial intelligence (AI) to make them work better over time.  This is called machine learning.

Flying in the face of all of this is Apple technology where we still struggle with Siri’s limited ability to address many requests, and she’s been around a long time. I hope she will be getting more advanced AI herself.  On the Google front, Alexa listens in and tries to learn what we need from her as well but with similar limitations in her results.

All of these talking voices and chat windows need better and better machine learning.  Behind the scenes, it’s true that programmers are working hard on natural language algorithms and increased accuracy through progressive learning.  But in my daily life experience, I don’t seem to have met these particularly advanced robot voices yet.

Anyhow, after Alex Konrad prematurely called chatbots dead, I’m noticing we actually continue to see more chatbots (and conversational agents) so they should only improve.  One day I hope I can rely on both Siri and Alexa too. 

It can’t happen too soon. As my eyes need a stronger prescription every few years, one day I’ll need to cut down on my actual reading time but could remain productive by talking and listening to the computer.  It still feels like it’s a way off and I can’t yet rely on this happening by then. But, hopefully with machine learning, I’ll be able to by the time I can no longer make it through a full day with my weary eyes.

We’d like to hear your thoughts on these chatbots and virtual assistants, let us know via LinkedIn.

Mark Salow, Senior Consultant