2020 Prediction: Conversing With Robots

Are you ready to chitchat with chatbots?

The term “chatbot” might leave you scratching your head. But don’t let it scare you. Think of it more like a “digital assistant”.

A chatbot is a form of artificial intelligence that responds in a conversational manner, in print or verbally, to questions or requests from people.

“Where’s the nearest McDonald’s?”

“Call Doug.”

If you’re a smartphone owner, you’ve probably spoken these types of commands to your phone.

Anyone who’s conversed with Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana has made friends with a chatbot.

But for chatbot developers, that’s baby talk.

Chatbots have the power to personalize a business, give customers a more intimate experience and build consumer loyalty. They give a phone menu or web store a pleasant, responsive, human personality.

Computer speeds and artificial intelligence are evolving. Chatbots may eventually take the place of customer service people, store clerks and even psychotherapists.

Investors are betting on it.

Ten representative U.S. chatbot developers already have raised more than $100 million in venture capital. This includes $25 million from Babylon Health, which helps people to self-diagnose illnesses and refers them to doctors; $14 million from Ozlo, which finds restaurants; and $23 million snagged by Chatbot Amy, which schedules meetings.

Before long, developers predict, when you order a pair of pants online, a smiling avatar will appear on-screen and say, “We have a shirt on sale that would go really well with those pants. May I show it to you?”

In a bookstore, a friendly avatar at the checkout kiosk might say, “Thank you for shopping with us. I see you chose a Stephen King novel. Please come back next week, when we’ll have his new book for you.”

Chatbots also are invading your office.

“Betty” is an office manager that greets guests, recognizes her human co-workers, tracks employees’ hours and keeps an eye on the office supplies.

“Mya,” from employment firm FirstJob, gets in touch with applicants to let them know if they’re in the running.

“Ellie” is a budding psychotherapist that reads your body language through a camera, and her on-screen avatar responds not only verbally but also with nods, smiles or other appropriate gestures. Many people report being more forthcoming with an artificial therapist rather than telling their embarrassing secrets to a fellow human.

You also can buy and download chatbot buddies to chitchat with or confide your problems to.

Skeptics urge caution. They warn that the hype enveloping chatbots still outstrips their capacities

However, as computers’ growing ability to learn and store information enables ever more sophisticated versions of artificial intelligence, chatbots will be fixtures in our lives by 2020.

Till next time,

Gerald Celente
for The Daily Reckoning


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