Of chatbot breakthroughs and chatbot moonshots: What does the future hold?

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"Even ten years, technologically speaking, meant so much. Compare Speedy with the type of robot they must have had back in 2005," said Isaac Asimov, of machines, in "I Robot." Well, good science fiction writers have a knack of imagining our world way before we reach there in reality.

As we stand today in 2017, chatbots are real. The industry analysts predict that over 80% of companies will be developing chatbots by 2020 and that chatbots will end up saving over $8 billion in annual costs. But for the most part, we are still swimming in uncharted waters. For those who would love to learn more about this dynamic market, download our detailed report on the sector here.

In our first two articles, we spoke about how design and character help build the perfect chatbot and the need for chatbots to stay true to their purpose and performance .

This time, let's take a look at the future.At best, a few million people today use chatbots.
What will make the creators reach the untapped market, not just the early technology adopters?
And more importantly, can they go beyond business-specific purposes to address larger social needs?

A. Let's look at possible Chatbot Moonshots of tomorrow.

1) Healthcare Chatbot

Issues - Access and cost of healthcare facilities

Chatbot angle
- An estimated 450 million people today suffer from mental health issues. Going to a psychiatrist might be emotionally or monetarily impossible for many. Can an anonymous chatbot become a confidant for them? Apart from mental health, can chatbots help in physical health and fitness by learning from patterns to become a diagnostic tool for doctors?

Now trending - Woebot claims to be trained in cognitive behaviour theory to help you track your mood and improve it with a few dorky jokes.


2) Education Chatbot

Issue - Teachers are often the most commonly forgotten link in the EdTech revolution of reaching more students with online content.

Chatbot angle - While motivated students can download online content to learn on their own, most need help. Maybe chatbots can take the role of that much-loved teacher we all need.

Now trending - Jill Watson for college students and National Geographic for school kids are just a few tiny dents in a gigantic hole of Educational gaps.


3) Transport Chatbot


Issue - With every passing day, urban transport has become and will continue to be a nightmare, across global cities.

Chatbot angle - A chatbot can be a life saviour by providing real-time updates on schedules and blockages.

Now trending - TfL travel bot promises to do exactly that, in a city like London.


The above chatbots are just a few hand picked examples. Chatbots can be used to personalize agricultural information for farmers, make politics more accessible, or help us choose from a menu - be it food, fashion or financial advice. They can even double up as companions for those seeking it. But these moonshots are still being developed. Many are still at a lab stage. Being tested. Being questioned - about empathy and context.

B. Breakthrough chatbots for the immediate future:

What about the ones already fighting for market share? Which of those are doing well today? Our detailed report, which you can download here demystifies the information from numerous articles, examples and opinions. Fact is there's no systematic ranking of chatbots today. And that's a problem.

Assuming the building blocks we spoke about in the earlier articles about a) character, design & b) purpose, performance are already in place. What parameters help us look at breakthrough chatbots for the immediate future?

1. Scale: Over a million users
Examples: Chatbots like Haptik (digital assistant), Poncho (weather updates) and Swell (social voting bot) are on their way to real scale.

2. Customer Satisfaction: Rating of over 4.0 in App Annie
Examples: Haptik, Poncho, Letz.do, 1-800 flowers

3. Automation: Ability to automate a lot of human effort
Examples: Now, that's hard to predict unless it's a customer service chatbot replacing actual service. KLM Airlines and HDFC Bank claim to have automated a large chunk of human effort.

4. Most talked about: by reviewers
Examples: Chatbots such as Mitsuku and Rose (most humane), Instalocate (travel bot), Meekan (productivity bot), TechCrunch (news bot), chatShopper (E-Commerce bot) are seen most often in expert articles.

Maybe we will see a new dark horse emerge in the 2018 Loebner prize, a Turing test for chatbot humaneness. In my view, the immediate future does not belong to chatbots which try to be what they are not. Chatbots solving specific queries, albeit with a strong character, purpose and quirky design are the winners, now.

To misquote the "I, Robot" quote, even one year, technologically speaking, could mean a lot, today. As chatbots continue to explore new technological advances, could voice-based chatbots leapfrog text-based ones? Could regional language and use of messaging platforms become key drivers for success? Someone is sure writing that science fiction story now. Meanwhile, you can download a detailed report on the chatbot market, right now -



This article is authored by Debleena Majumdar, it's part 3 of a 3-part series on chatbots brought to you by Haptik and Business Insider. It looks at why chatbots are growing the way they are, who chatbots can help and what they are capable of doing alongside highlighting the key opportunities and challenges.

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