Natural language processing has always fascinated me. It’s the field of computing and artificial intelligence concerned with making computers understand and speak the natural languages of humans, thus allowing people to interact with a computer as they would with another person, be it on a text or voice interface.
One trend that is making good use of natural language processing is the rise of chat bots and conversational commerce. That is, people using automated software inside WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Line and pretty much every other messaging app out there to get things done (e.g., order food or a cab, buy stuff, consult the weather and so on).
Some smart people are claiming the 2016 will be the year of conversational commerce, so keep your radar on.
If you think about, a very smart chat bot could be the next Google, as people probably would rather ask questions and search in a conversational fashion than using search queries on a web page. But that is for another post!
Below you’ll find some links that discuss the issue in more detail.
Articles and Blog Posts
Before I begin, I want to clarify that conversational commerce (as I see it) largely pertains to utilizing chat, messaging, or other natural language interfaces (i.e. voice) to interact with people, brands, or services and bots that heretofore have had no real place in the bidirectional, asynchronous messaging context. The net result is that you and I will be talking to brands and companies over Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram, Slack, and elsewhere before year’s end, and will find it normal. Indeed, there are several examples of this phenomenon already, but those examples are few and far between, and fit in a Product Hunt collection rather than demand an entire App Store (wait for it).
2016 is being declared the year of bots. And it feels like there is a broad shift in the developer ecosystem away from traditional point-and-click apps, towards chat-based user interfaces.
It’s happening because there is broad consumer and developer fatigue with apps. Consumers don’t want to install or use new traditional apps. And partially as a result, developers are faced with rising distribution costs.
Chatbots, historically maligned as “weak AI,” are finally transforming from ugly duckling to beautiful swan. According to recent predictions, chatbots (#ConvComm) will be big. Like, Google-killing big, heralding the end of apps and search as we know it — or so proclaimed Forbes and The Wall Street Journal.
Many companies are hoping to develop bots to have natural conversations indistinguishable from human ones, and many are claiming to be using NLP and Deep Learning techniques to make this possible. But with all the hype around AI it’s sometimes difficult to tell fact from fiction.
Plataforms, Tools and Links
ChatFuel (platform for building chat bots)
Botkit (building blocks for Slack bots)