Over the years, we have all experienced multiple fads come and go. Heck, I think I can easily recall two or three waves around chatbot technology alone over the past couple of decades. However, and I know this sounds cliché, this time is different. Today’s bots are not your grandpa’s bots from 10 years ago. This time they’re for real!
The reason is simple: Bots are just a user interface of a much bigger revolution that is surrounding us these days — the artificial intelligence revolution. The potential for AI is huge. The technology has the ability to interact with us in new, surprising and unprecedented ways, provide us insights we were previously blind to, and is quickly becoming the new user interface for platforms like bots. With this, we’re going to start to see a new class of bots become as ubiquitous as smartphones — not just in business, but in every aspect of human life. These bots will become a new representation of our identities, and will shadow us around the digital world, first observing and later undertaking much of our more common tasks. I will opt to call these new bots “shades.”
Stronger natural language processing
The emergence of stronger natural language processing has people looking at new ways and new places to implement this technology. The capability is being incorporated into phones, bots, appliances and directly within applications. In the next three to five years, we’ll see a convergence of those technologies and channels, leading to a new class of personal assistants.
In the current wave, the early stage was a competition between the big players to win the bots war, with Siri firing the first shot. Then in the next phase, we will see a new category of bots emerge which will present the shade OS for our personal reality. These new bots will not be hostages of Google, Apple, Facebook or Samsung, but rather will learn to represent our own individual best interest. Instead of a separate bot for each channel, like Siri or Bixby for your phone and a different bot in a platform like Facebook, you’ll have a single shade that is pervasive throughout all of your digital interactions, shifting the focus to the user and away from the brand.
As people converge on several preferred assistant frameworks, this new type of bot will become highly personalized, learning all your preferences and carrying them over to new channels and apps. Like a shadow, your shade will change shape depending on where you’re standing, but will consistently follow you wherever you go.
Predictive nature of bots
Eventually, this shade will represent you, both personally and in commercial transactions, and will only pull you into conversations where you are absolutely necessary. With this, brands — which will probably also be represented by bots — will need to form relationships with your shade and will need to find ways to delight you as the ultimate consumer after having satisfied your shade representative.
In the home: Surprising to some, we’re seeing some evidence that consumer comfort levels with bots and smart appliances are rising to pave the way for this revolutionary change. About 16% of American homes are making use of smart speakers like the Amazon Echo, with its embedded Alexa personal assistant to manage environments and help make purchases online. I believe that this adoption number indicates that we have crossed the threshold from early adopters into early majority territory.
At the office: In addition, we’re already seeing rudimentary bots that are serving as anthropomorphized representatives of people in a business setting. X.ai is just one example of this, creating a virtual assistant that acts on a user’s behalf to schedule meetings.
The predictive nature of the user interface will also become completely contextual, such as audio versus visual interactions, and will be based on each user’s specific situation and preferences. Apps like Google Maps, for example, are already able to proactively tell you to leave early for a meeting due to traffic conditions without even being posed the question.
As these types of technologies continue to become integrated into our smartphones, wearables and applications, we will continue to see a growing number of bot adopters. It won’t be long until no one will be able to live or function without the use of a shade within the next few years, much like we’ve seen with the smartphones of today.
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