Chatbots are now a part of our lives.
Can chatbots replace human interaction?
Sometimes called Chatterbots because they exist to simulate and replicate the type of ‘chatter’ that we humans want to engage in order to ‘find out stuff’ of all kinds, chatbots are being deployed by almost every company with an online presence.
Some tech analysts think that chatbots enjoyed their initial 1.0 version iteration in the form of automated phone conversations, through what is known as Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology.
Although IVR was invented in the 1970s, it was not popularized until the 1990s when voice recognition technology improved and call center firms realized that it could improve their queuing systems.
Many of us formed a love-hate relationship with IVR voice systems as they talked back to us with their “I think you said ____” responses. Users trying to look up cinema movie times or book trains etc, would regularly pull their hair out as the IVR ‘voicebot’ seemed to have no idea what the conversation was actually about.
In these post-millennial years, we still use IVR, but its use cases are often more restricted to banking services and areas like TV show entertainment call-in lines and so on.
If we can reasonably call voice services chatbots 1.0, then the real 2.0 manifestation of this technology happened with the wider birth of the web.
For many of us, visiting web pages that we log into every week, it’s now a common sight to see a pop-up button saying ‘let’s talk’, ‘can I help?’ or just the plain and simple ‘hi there!’ on the page.
Some of us find these services infuriating, some of us just ignore them and some of us use expletives and type in absurdities to test whether we are talking to a machine or a human being.
By and large, the initial response for a chatbot as we stand now is an auto-generated welcome line, but it is, in fact, a human being that’s standing ready to take your query if the machine’s initial interpretation of the user’s request can not be met.
For want of a more savory term, this process is called the ‘human handoff’.
But chatbots are getting smarter and AI— and its ability to expose software systems to machine learning processes so that they get smarter and smarter— is working better all the time.
In slightly more technical terms, we are now segmenting our software programming approach to chatbot development so that we can differentiate between both stateless and stateful chatbots.