After each of my 8th grade school day was over, I’d rush home to get on AOL Instant Messenger, or AIM. AIM was the place where all my friends were. We would chat all afternoon and night (multiple chat windows open at once) about everything from games to schools to movies to whatever else was on our 8th grade minds.
A feature of AIM was chatbots. One of them that I remember was called SmarterChild. We would send it messages and questions, often times inappropriate questions, the kinds that people ask Siri. I remember thinking that SmarterChild wasn’t all that smart after the first few minutes, but the novelty was highly entertaining.
Fast forward 15 years and chatbots are all of a sudden the new old craze. Tech giants like Facebook and startups like snips are all entering the field offering to make our lives simpler and more automated using smart algorithms that understand what we want and when we want it.
My prediction is that we will see a trove of chatbots that are one dimensional that are helpful but not transformative. Sure I can call a Lyft by asking a chatbot to do it for me…or I can just call a Lyft by pulling out my phone. Helpful but not life changing. (Disclosure: GSV owns shares in Lyft)
As technology, machine learning and natural language processing, advances to be 99%+ accurate, the true long term impact of chatbot will be felt in a new form of interface termed “conversational AI”. This will usher in an era where a wide range of general tasks can be not only completed by a chatbot, but anticipated in advance by a bot.
Instead of asking for a Lyft, the bot would just read my calendar to know that I need to travel to my next meeting and automatically call a Lyft a few minutes before my current meeting is booked to end. I walk outside of the coffee shop and a self-driving Lyft is there waiting for me. It already has the address of my next meeting.
In effect, chatbots are merely a transitional technology to move the world from conversational UI to no UI needed. Just have your phone, watch or whatever device on you, turn on location and all relevant sensors and let the algorithm go to work.
This may sound very utopian to be sure, but it is the natural progression of technology. Each wave of technology is meant to free up human’s time from the drudgery of life.
In the chatbot future of the world, we’ll be accomplish more, in less time and enjoy the sunshine that is Dolores Park.
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