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BW Businessworld

Make Way For The Bot

What about the whole overload of apps on your smartphone or tablet? That will disappear, because bot-makers say you won’t need them. That there’ll probably be an overload of bots, doesn’t seem to matter —yet

Photo Credit : Shutterstock

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It’s a little word with big implications.

One used to associate a ‘bot’ with a little robot or autonomous software code that did whatever it was programmed to do on a network.

Fast forward to today and just about anyone you meet connected to the tech industry is chatting about bots, telling you that you will soon be chatting with bots.

Put that autonomous code or virtual robot together with artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing, and you have these entities that can talk to you, sell to you —especially sell to you —help you with this and that, and be your connection to all sorts of services. Apps, according to some, will just roll over and die. Life online will predominantly be spent on a messenger (specifically Facebook Messenger or M but also so many others like WeChat, Line, Hike, Telegram etc) from where one can get things done, from booking a cab to calling for pizza to paying one’s bills to buying a bag.

As the Internet of Things ecosystem increases, bots will be everywhere looking after your banking, travel, food, and even work. One has to wonder whether we were short of human beings to need bots now.

What about the whole overload of apps on your smartphone or tablet? That will disappear, because bot-makers say you won’t need them. That there’ll probably be an overload of bots, doesn’t seem to matter —yet.

Bots will hardly restrict themselves to being text-based interactions on messengers. They’ll be integrated with voice assistants like Siri, Google Voice, Cortana and Alexa. This will redefine human-robot relationships, for sure, but also human-human relationships. It’s a particularly frightening prospect because the tech giants are trying to make this happen now, even as we speak. Microsoft is putting bots into Skype. Google, Amazon and Apple are going to use bots, and Facebook is pushing the bot revolution harder than everyone. And client companies are scrambling to build bots and experiment with them.

Digital marketers couldn’t be more pleased as a new opportunity comes up not only to reach potential customers and existing ones with services and CRM, but new branding possibilities emerge.

I’ve barely gotten over the pain of dealing with recorded voices on the phone to various services like banks and ISPs, and now an army of bots is marching in...

One major problem is that the upcoming bots are going to start out far from perfect. How easy or frustrating it’s going to be to talk to bots with their intelligent but limited systems and at what point they hand off to humans (those who still have jobs, that is) is going to pan out, starting now. How intrusive and time consuming these are going to be also remains to be seen.

It’s tempting to think of bots as mere hype and a fad that will go away. After all, apps seemed to be here to stay but one can already see that a majority of them won’t be needed. Couldn’t the same happen with bots, fast enough? It’s possible, especially if they fail at doing their job well enough or take longer to perfect themselves than they did to appear.

For now though, tech leaders like Satya Nadella and Mark Zuckerberg are impassioned with the idea of what bots can do and that means we’ll see a lot of action in that space. Rather than a fad, the bot phenomenon is being thought of as the next computing platform.