Hello Chatbot, how are you?

Nothing new but chatbots keep the modern working world in suspense. Hardly a month passes without new developments. Most people know and use the small "chat machines" with very different motivations. But aren't chatbots always just used in customer service?

Chatbot, ChatterBot, Bot or virtual Agent?

The names for the programs are as diverse as their fields of application. But not all of them can be used synonymously. While today's common term Chatbot is derived from ChatterBot and combines the functionality of the programs - chatting - with the second syllable of the word robot, virtual agents are much more complex. This is because artificial intelligence is always an essential prerequisite. Basically, however, chatbots can be divided into four groups.

The simplest form is the FAQ or QnA Bots. They are based on full-text or keyword input, but can already demonstrate machine learning. In the background of the program, there is a database from which the answer options are generated. The next evolutionary step is script bots, which already have a much higher degree of interaction with the user and are no longer dependent only on predefined inquiry-response cycles. NLU Bots (Natural Language Understanding) exceed this by understanding spoken language and are thus able to interact with the user even more interactively. Some NLU Bots are even able to recognize moods through the user-defined concern and its named entities. Virtual agents are at the top of the chatbot ranking. Therefore, this description hardly does them justice, because virtual agents not only have flexible dialogue structures and a mature context memory (this is where the AI appears) but are also in a position to switch to other topics of a different kind during the conversation.


 
 

Simplistically a Chatbot is a computer program that simulates a human conversation with a partner.©Egencia

The year 2016: Chatbot development starts?

The Facebook Messenger is by far the most popular platform on which chatbots are implemented. Certainly also a result of the opening of the Messenger for developers and the connection to the developer tool Wit.ai. The 300,000 chatbots that were available on Facebook Messenger in April 2019 do not yet include all those who are romping around on corporate websites or acting as intranet conductors. And yet it is clear how much the small programs are in demand. The hype of recent years almost leads to the fallacy that chatbots are an invention of the 21st century. Far from it!

It all started with ELIZA - more than 50 years ago. The head behind the development at that time was Joseph Weizenbaum, a german-american computer scientist and critic of science and society. At this time, his masterpiece ELIZA was regarded as a milestone in the development of artificial intelligence. Talks between psychologists and patients were simulated in which Weizenbaum's program made it clear that people cannot always tell whether they are talking to a machine or a real conversation partner. Shocking by the standards of the time! To substitute machines or programs for people - unthinkable. Weizenbaum had to take a public stand on his test results and make it clear that it was not his intention to replace human labor. But the fascination with the chat robots was awakened and expanded in the following years. ELIZA was followed by Parry, Jabberwacky, Dr. Sbaitso, A.L.I.C.E. and Smarter Child, until finally those followed, some of whom have become an integral part of our daily lives: Siri, Alexa, Cortona and Co.


New colleague Chatbot?

In the private sphere, a third of all Internet users use chatbots not only on websites but also increasingly in instant messaging services such as WhatsApp, the Facebook Messenger or the WhatsApp counterpart from the Far East, WeChat. Every day, chatbots provide support or sell products. They are intended to simplify processes and support people. Efficiency is also an important figure in working life. When companies decide to implement chatbot solutions in departments or even across departments, many employees first see red and fear the new technology, which triggers fear of the future in many people's minds. And you certainly have tasks on your desk that don't challenge you at all and may even prevent you from achieving your daily goals. We are talking about monotonous tasks such as scheduling meetings or updating appointments. Wouldn't it be great if someone else could do it for you and your entire office? Amy or Andrew might be your new colleagues on the team. The chatbot works in your mailbox and adjusts his gender to the user to fully understand the user's needs. It does exactly what you find annoying self-administration: organize.

Another example of a successful team expansion with a chatbot is the Danish beer brewer Carlsberg. They call their assistant Carrie and she also takes care of the employees. However, not like Amy and Andrew as support for organizational activities, but as a security consultant. Carrie is a specialist in the area of security rules and regulations and impresses with her permanent availability and excellent response times, which prevent data breakdowns. Thus, the chatbot is a gain for the employees and the entire company.

Also in the recruiting area, artificial intelligence and chatbots are increasingly used for candidate selection. A famous example which relies on the help of "Vera" is Pepsi. Since the company receives countless applications every day, "Vera" makes it easier to identify the right candidate and interview him or her in advance via video chat or telephone.


Just hype or a real benefit?

The advantages of chatbots are obvious: they are always available, despite holidays, illness, weekends or bank holidays. They are still friendly even after the 1000th conversation and can react multilingual to inquiries. On the other hand, there is a possible danger of manipulation, such as Microsoft experienced with its Twitter bot Tay. The users trained the chatbot within 24 hours from a nice conversation partner to a sexist and racist who massively insulted other users. The only option - Tay had to go offline and the Microsoft developers had a lot of rework to do. The bot hasn't made it back to the net so far. This shows how sensitive the systems are.


ARTS Odoo Bot

We at ARTS embrace digital change positively and openly to test new ways which help us to be more efficient and targeted. Almost all processes run in our ERP system Odoo. With 500 employees in 5 sites and more than 25 project locations, it is not always possible to get to know everyone personally. That's why we use our Odoo-Bot, which welcomes each new employee individually and at the same time informs other colleagues who the new colleague is and where he or she is based. The Odoo-Bot keeps all colleagues up to date without any additional work for them. If you would like to get to know ARTS and our Odoo-Bot, please visit our job exchange or send us an unsolicited application.


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