Modern Advancements in Conversational AI
Conversational AI, or artificial intelligence, refers to any computer program that users can talk to.
11:11 31 May 2021
Commonly referred to as chatbots, these programs use a combination of machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) combined with huge volumes of data to imitate human interactions. They can recognize speech or text inputs, then translate the meanings across multiple languages and come up with relevant responses.
From Humble Beginnings to Amazing Tech Advancements
The first chatbot was created almost a half-century ago by researchers at MIT. Named Eliza, the chatbot was not powered by AI. Instead, it used pattern matching and substitution to give users the impression that it understood them without having any real framework for contextualizing speech events. The whole program was driven by scripts, but that didn't stop some younger users from believing they were talking to an actual human being.
The first AI-powered chatbot, Cleverbot, wasn't created until 1998, but even this more advanced program could not compare to the current virtual assistants available over at Nu Echo. It used a combination of NLP and fuzzy logic to mimic communication, but only touched the surface of machine learning.
Today's researchers use a combination of approaches to synthesize human conversational skills using AI, and conversational AI programs have become nearly ubiquitous. People interact with them over the phone when they call customer service lines, online as next-level chatbots, and in a wide variety of other settings.
Common Applications for Modern Conversational AI
Although voice assistants and online chatbots are the best-known types of conversational AI, the real-world applications for this technology are actually far more numerous. Businesses and organizations have been jumping on board the chatbot bandwagon in droves, and many have benefited substantially from embracing this ever-advancing technology. Common applications for conversational AI in today's world include:
Online Customer Support
One of the most common uses for chatbots is to replace human agents in online chats. These AI programs are able to answer frequently asked questions, provide personalized advice to customers, cross-sell products, and even suggest sizes for specific users. Of course, companies still need human customer service representatives to help customers who are unable to find answers to their questions with the help of chatbots, but those employees benefit substantially from working with AI programs.
Conversational AI is also used in many assistive technologies. Text-to-speech dictation and translation services are just a few examples. Companies can use these programs to reduce barriers to entry for employees and customers or clients who require assistive tech, improving accessibility while simultaneously cutting costs.
Human Resources Processes
Many human resources (HR) processes at today's most advanced companies take advantage of conversational AI. These software programs can be used for employee onboarding, training, and more.
Health Care Settings
Conversational AI doesn't just play a role in consumer-facing business models. It's also revolutionizing the healthcare industry, making services more affordable and accessible, and improving the efficiency of facilities' administrative processes.
Internet of Things Devices
The Internet of Things (IoT) moved incredibly quickly from an obscure idea to a daily reality for millions of people across the country. Today, almost every household has at least one IoT device. From Alexa and Google Home to smartwatches and security systems, most of these devices use conversational AI to automate interactions with end-users.
Most people don't even realize that they're engaging with conversational AI when they use software programs. Features like autocomplete and spell check, for example, are taken completely for granted, but the more advanced models often rely on complex AI algorithms and machine learning.
Benefits of Adopting Conversational AI
Chatbots, virtual assistants, and other forms of conversational AI provide cost-effective solutions for managing a multitude of business processes. Any business owner who is on the fence about whether it's worth working with machines should consider the following benefits.
Improved Cost Efficiency
Most companies have customer service departments, but hiring full-time staff can be very costly. Even basic chatbots are capable of providing instant responses to customer inquiries, 24/7, and they can do it for far less than it costs to hire, train, and pay extra human representatives. Of course, companies still need human workforces. With conversational AI programs, though, they can hire and train fewer workers, who can then work with chatbots or virtual assistants to accomplish the same goals more efficiently.
Today's businesses and organizations need to be capable of providing real-time information to their customers. In most cases, human workers are only available during standard business hours. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean people are only interested in engaging with new brands during those hours. When customers or clients can get personalized responses from chatbots and other forms of conversational AI at any time of the day or night, it increases engagement and improves their experiences.
As companies grow, things can get complicated fast. Having more customers or expanding to new geographic markets is always exciting, but it often requires hiring and onboarding new employees, which takes time and money. Taking advantage of conversational AI is an inexpensive solution that can be implemented right away, as soon as the company needs to scale up.
The Future of Conversational AI
Current chatbots may be impressive, but they still operate on weak AI principles. Some researchers doubt whether strong AI that is equal to human intelligence in scope is even possible. However, that's not stopping the tech industry from pushing toward this next step in AI evolution.
Eventually, AI may be able to do more than mimic human conversations. It could exhibit the sentience, consciousness, and self-awareness required to communicate truly. That said, most people don't believe strong AI is even possible, and if it is, its development could still be decades away.
Chatbots, virtual assistants, and other forms of conversational AI may be highly specialized, but these programs are extremely good at what they do. Although machines will never be able to replace human beings, business owners and researchers are always finding new applications for conversational AI that complement human-to-human interactions, and no one can predict what the future will bring.