Bots World Panel

These are my notes on a panel I did last week. I will turn it into a blog post soon.

Are apps dead - has the chatbot supplanted the app?

Of course they are not dead, and I personally don't see a world without mobile apps. There are still only some types of apps that can be disrupted by messenger bots. Informational apps, apps that have limited user input, apps that currently rely heavily on search and when there is a business need to support lots of different platforms.

Line of business applications are an area I think that chat bots could replace apps the most. Holiday booking, travel booking, extracting report details and information from a large corporation. Helping Organisations know what they know.

"What where the sales figures of Martin Beebys sales team last month".

But messenger apps aren't going to replace apps that have graphical interfaces: Games, Augmented reality. In fact any app that requires more information than a camera still, or more than 30 seconds of dictation or user input are not going to be great candidates. Email, office, video creation, detailed generalised reporting they all seem to work better as apps rather than bots right now.

Messaging bots are far more suited to information consumption rather than creation.

Is it a flash in the pan?

As Artificial Intelligence and Speech and language understanding improve messenger bots are going to get more and more capable. This will enable far more complex applications to be built. I can't see this being flash in the pan it has legs in my opinion.

What types of chatbot will have the greatest longevity?

One's that improve business processes and productivity. If you can save people time, then you can make money.

Are there sectors which will benefit more than others?

Companies that are providing services at scale can benefit today from bots today. Any scenarios where you are organising people or assets, or triaging requests. So things like help desks, travel, insurance, telecoms, healthcare I have seen great examples in all those industries.

Is messaging a waypoint - what about audio?

I think so, if speech recognition was better I suspect that would become the obvious way to interact with a bot. However, there are times when typing your request still has benefits, maybe you are in a public place or you want your request to be private or you are asking something that won't be easily understood by a speech system.

What have you observed users doing that you didn’t expect?

Being polite to bots. Or asking questions in unusual ways. So on the Skyscanner bot. I would say "Can I have a flight to Glasgow next weekend. But my dad used it by typing "Glasgow, Fly, Weekend, Please". His expectation of what a bot could do were different than I was expecting.

What data can you share about usage?

Not much. I worked with Sage on there Pegg Bot they say: More than 20,000 Sage AI users: Tens of thousands of ‘new to Sage’ customers adopt accounting chat bot Pegg within six months since launch.

What tips do you have for delivering as smooth an experience as possible?

Really work on the conversation design and test early with real people. They say that 5 users will find 80% of your problems, so get it into testers and users hands early and continually iterate and monitor.

Is conversational design any different from traditional design?

Yes I think so, but you would have to ask a designer and that one.

What does the future look like?

Speech, I think it will change everything. Operating system will use speech more and more untill someday, maybe you don't need a touch screen interface or a screen to get most of your tasks done. That could change a lot of tecnology assumptions we make today.

Published by thebeebs

Martin works for Microsoft as a Software Developer. He’s been a developer since the late 90s and loves figuring out problems and experimenting with code.