Are Bots Really the Next Big Thing?


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AI is an area where much of the science is well established, but the implementation is still quite immature. It’s not that the emperor has no clothes — rather, the emperor is only now wearing underwear. There’s a lot more dressing to be done.

Thus, take all these intelligent machine/software promises with a big grain of salt. We’re decades away from a “Star Trek”-style conversational computer, much less the artificial intelligence of Stephen Spielberg’s “A.I.”

Still, there’s a lot happening in general AI. Smart developers and companies will focus on the specific areas that have real current potential and leave the rest to sci-fi writers and the gee-whiz press.

Businesses struggle with the corporate brain drain caused by the continuous churn of employees, and increasingly turn to technology to capture and share information, to somehow retain and capture the knowledge that powers organizational processes. At the same time, businesses face pressure to scale effectively in the global digital environment, to cope with the need to perform actions or make decisions repetitively at high speed, without error.

Our expectations as individuals also play a part. Interacting with tools like Siri and Cortana makes us more comfortable engaging with technology using natural language, and we increasingly accept — or expect — recommendations from technology, such as website recommendations.

What’s more, advances in a number of technologies — developing in parallel — make this blossoming possible. Our ability to collect and process vast datasets from all aspects of our business and home-life environments helps bot applications improve their understanding of natural language, while the more pervasive availability of APIs makes it easier to connect to applications.

Add to this the democratization of development and the increasing availability of (often free) bot development and natural language processing toolkits, and the foundations are fully in place.

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