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July 18, 2017

Chatbots: Transforming Customer Experience

Author: Jitendra Jain | Senior Technology Architect | HILife-ADG (Architecture & Design Group)

Chatbots- What is it?

Chatbots are special kind of smartly designed artificial intelligence enabled computer programs to simulate or mimic conversation with human users over the Internet. Chatbot are also known as chat robot, means a robotic system who can answer different questions. In pure technical terms a chatbot is also referred like a service engine, derived by some logical rules and fixed set of predefined pathways that a user or customer interact with via a chat interface. This service could be well integrated inside any major chat product like (Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, Text Messages, etc.)

Chatbots can transform the way you interact with the internet from a series of self-initiated tasks to a resembled type of conversation. Now chatbots are not just a possibility, chatbots are already starting to significantly change everything we do know about customer communication. Chatbots are now also seen as one of the promising way of Digital engagement. A lot of business enterprises have understood the fact that they can increase their business revenue by offering qualitative chatbot to provide digital user experience to customers.

Chatbots- Channels for Interaction

Users can interact with multiple available channels. Below are some of the major channels

 Webpage

 IM, Chat, SMS

 Mobile App

 Smart Agent

 Augmented reality (AR)

 Virtual reality (VR)

 Activity Stream- recent activities

 Email

Chatbots- Is it everywhere?

Yes, chatbots are everywhere, trying to touch our feet's. Businesses to fun, personal space to health, sports to education, chatbots is being deployed everywhere.  Let us see some major areas where bots are available for making our life easy.

Restaurant Bot: To view food menus, make instant reservations, find out business hours of operation, will ask and serve your preferred menu even before you ask, will guide you with locations. 

Survey Bot: A bot to ask different kind of questions gauging customer satisfaction, their views, preferences and share expected results based on previously gathered data. 

Scheduling Bot: Our own personal activity kind of scheduling bot with intelligence. Get me meeting notifications via messenger, alert me and suggest me for better time management during the day or week or month.

Resume / CV Bot: Display your profile details and relevant personal information along with skill repository. Share your CV as per your skills, roles, location, salary, experience. It is a kind of automation. 

Customer Service Bot: knowledge base searching and support ticket assistance, help with all kind of queries with more contextual aspect.

 Life advice bot: Let me talk to bot about my problems and issues I'll explain it to bot and let bot help me with variety of options, solutions, alternatives and energetic ideas to overcome challenges to make me happy in any circumstances.

 Pet Adoption Bot: A different kind of bot that uses available third party vendor APIs to adopt a pet. Help me to choose right pet based on breed, space, budget, temperature and environment.

Musician Bot: It is a music bot displays your songs, videos, albums in different categories, shows preferred track, top rated songs, singers' profiles, new arrivals etc.

Weather Bot: Get the weather details whenever you ask. Geographically intelligent bot that fetches in third party vendor provided data based on user geo coordinates and entered input and guide you out with future weather conditions, alert, send notifications etc.

RSS / Blog Bot: Showcase RSS feed content such as blog posts, newsletters. For subscribed users, send periodical updates on latest trending articles via Broadcasts. Share your preferred feed, alert and notifications based on your interest.

Public Transit Bot: Bot simplifies state wise public transit and travel information by utilizing   transit data .Guide with the routes, paths, schedules, detour pathways etc.  

Grocery bot: Help me to order groceries and food items for the whole week, kindly alert me for any upcoming shortages, suggest me nearest stores etc.

News bot: Ask bot to tell you whenever something interesting happens, any incident, news about politics, entertainment, technology, businesses etc.  

Personal finance bot: Bot helps me manage my portfolio and funds in a better way like a real financial advisor, keep an eye on my portfolio and do alert me as and when required with corrective actions.

Chatbots- Technology behind it?

There are two basic categories of chatbots.

  • Rule-based chatbots
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) based chatbots

Chatbots are entirely API-driven & event-driven. Most of the chatbots are designed using artificial intelligence (AI). Some chatbots are based on natural language processing (NLP) while other chatbot system works based on keyboard input scanning and matching keyword technique for their optimal conversational responses. Companies are migrating from traditional rule based bot implementation to a machine learning (ML) driven bot implementation approaches.

Chatbots software typically have 4 major core components 

Messenger (Messaging Platforms)

It is the chat interface where we receive messages and as per message type and message category we route them to an appropriate service handler. It acts as a service interface on top of our chat bot engine.

E.g. What's App, Facebook Messenger, Twitter and Skype

Message Parser & Handler

The primary role of the service engine or handler is to handle the messages passed from messenger and then delegate these tasks to appropriate business services, and send output response messages back to the caller.

E.g. IBM Watson, TextRazor, AlchemyAPI, wit.ai and api.ai

Services

Services are the main controller in chatbots for making API requests, after that parsing the data as per received requests and formatting these output responses for handler components

E.g. Magento, mixPanel, Twilio, Zen desk, Clarifai and box

State stores

State stores are just like a data storage component help to manage state from multiple interactions using bot. It stores contextual and conversation data for bot to recall things and keep track of last state of system.

E.g. MongoDB, mLab and Compose etc. 

Chatbots- Available Platforms

  • Facebook Messenger Platform
  • Microsoft Bot Framework
  • IBM Watson
  • The Kore Bots Platform 2.0 (Kore.ai)-named a 2016 Gartner Cool Vendor
  • Pandorabots
  • Beep Boop
  • BotKit
  • Telegram Bots
  • ChattyPeople
  • Chatfuel
  • Botsify
  • Flow XO
  • Motion.ai
  • AgentBot
  • Api.ai
  • Twyla
  • Luis

Who is already using chatbot platforms?

Business & Finance  

RBS
Capital One
Fidelity
PayPal

Entertainment

FANDANGO
Universal Studio
Armani
Spider Man

Food

Starbucks
Heineken
Burger King
Domino's

Utilities

UPS
Staples
HP
Trulia

Health & Fitness

Playtex
Whole Foods
Oscar Foods
HealthTap

Life Style

Vogue
Tommy HiLfiger
H&M
Unilever

News & Media

BBC
WSJ
CNN
NBC 

Travel

Uber
KIA
Expedia
KLM

Shopping 

Armani
Vogue
NordStrom

Social Good

UNICEF
HelloVote

Sports

NBA
NFL
COPA 90
theScore

Chatbots- Market trends and statistical analysis

As per dazeinfo.com survey, Chatbot is the Future of business enterprises, 80% Companies would like to integrate it by Year 2020 instead of ignoring it to increase their revenues.

Stephanie Baghdassarian, research director at Gartner, explained that while they don't replace humans, bots can handle discovery questions and offer solutions without the intervention of human agents.

One of the biggest statistics comes from Facebook, in just a year, FB Messenger has significantly grown to enable more than 100k developers who have made around 100k bots. As per venturebeat survey, Facebook Messenger now has 11,000 chatbots for users to try.

Chinese social media chatbot platform "WeChat" have shown that buying and interacting with bots is extremely commonplace. Wechat has 762 million active users (as of Jan 2015). It enables its global users to do lot of such things like paying water bills, booking doctor's appointments, and getting food delivered.

In Africa chatbot platform "Nuru AI" helps to solve day-to-day problems. Now most of the users in Africa and other nearby situated countries is actively using chatbots instead of older way of sending text messages to ask questions.

As per UK-based Juniper Research chatbots operating in customer service areas would certainly help enterprises save $8 billion per year. As per their research, chatbots platform will enable and redefine the customer service industry (B2C). Banking, Finance and healthcare sectors would be the significant gainers

 As per venturebeat.com in 2017 industry would see major uplift chatbots, some glimpses below 

  • Chatbot adoption will drastically pick up in 2017 
  • Chatbots will become more intelligent in 2017, but not only through AI even via other areas
  • Platform intelligence will increase to address business problems in 2017. 
  • Chatbots will soon find their proper role at the offices in 2017 

Conclusion

Chatbots could be a major game changer for B2C companies, especially those who offers customer services in their businesses. For B2B space bots are still not the right candidate. Looking at the adoption rate all the above predictions seems correct. AI is already a powerful space hence combining AI with Bots could be really an interesting recipe in future.

July 1, 2017

The New UX using VR, AR and Touch less gestures

Author: Arshad Sarfarz Ariff, Technology Architect

Introduction

UX in web applications were always driven by mouse and keyboards. Similarly, UX in mobile applications were always driven by touch screens coupled with gestures. But advancements in the field of virtual reality, augmented reality and touch less gestures are gearing up to challenge the status quo. AR and VR has been listed in Gartner report titled - "Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends 2017". Gartner has predicted that AR, VR and mixed reality (MR) solutions will be evaluated and adopted in 20% of large-enterprise businesses by 2019.


Virtual reality:

Virtual reality is a three-dimensional artificial environment created by software which can be explored and interacted with by a person, like he does in a real environment. Immersing the user into the virtual world is achieved by using Head-Mounted Displays (HMD). HMD worn on the head projects the virtual environment making the user feel that he is involved in a virtual world, thanks to HMDs like Google Daydream and Oculus Rift for making virtual reality affordable to the masses. Google Daydream allows users to utilize their mobile device for immersing into virtual reality using a headset and controller.

 

Augmented reality:

Augmented reality makes use of physical environment and augments or overlays the computer generated 2D/3D images, text on top of the Physical environment. This is generally done by using HMD in the shape of eyewear glasses as opposed to HMD for VR that covers the complete physical view to immerse the user in virtual world. Microsoft HoloLens claims to provide augmented reality leveraging holograms. Besides, Microsoft along with others are working on taking this experience to the browsers which is evident from the previews available on Edge browser.

 

Touchless gesture:

Touchless gesture is a revolutionary way of interacting with software where natural movements of the hands and fingers on space are tracked to provide capabilities like clicking on a button, sliding through the control, enlarging or compressing images, navigating through menus etc. Google Project Soli aims to provide new user experience using touch less gesture interactions.  This is achieved by using a mini chip that imbibes the entire sensor and antenna which recognizes dynamic gestures exhibited by fine movements of the hand and fingers.  Currently gestures that mimic interaction with physical tools like button, dial and slider are developed.

 

Beneficial Use Cases:

These technologies lay the foundation for a new form of user experience in day-to-day applications. Some of the use cases that would benefit from the combination of VR, AR and touch less gestures are

UX_AR_VR_TG_New.png

Though the above mentioned use cases would stand out to be early adopters, everyday use cases ranging from browsing the web to transacting on the mobile would soon become the norm of the day using these techniques.

 

Impact on Application Development:

VR, AR and Touch less interaction would not only be a game changer on user experience but also put a dent on application development. Enterprises need to rethink their strategy on Gamification using VR, AR and Touch less gestures. 

Use of JavaScript for virtual reality is made possible by WebVR that works on defining JavaScript API for creating immersive 3D, virtual reality experiences on the browser. This would need a headset and a compatible browser. Mozilla Firefox, Google chrome and Microsoft Edge are racing to provide support on their browser for range of VR headsets.

The importance of UX and single Page applications would rise higher as the presentation logic on the browser plays a key role to handle new forms of interaction. New SPA frameworks can emerge or the existing frameworks can undergo significant change. For example, navigation of pages might undergo complete change. HTML5 techniques like offline storage may be used heavily as more and more images need to be stored for 3D image construction. Performance of the browser and the SPA applications need to push the envelope to deal with 3D construction and interaction. Applications might need to be architected using pre-rendering along with parallelism.

These new capabilities would also open up challenges in the field of testing. Newer frameworks and languages might emerge to support unit testing and system testing. We can expect the system testers using VR headsets for regression.

New application development can no more consider only apps built for desktop, tablets and mobiles using RWD. It needs to keep in mind the range of headsets and the type of 3D experience and gestures that can be supported in the new aps.

Existing applications would face greater challenge, as it needs to be adapted or redesigned to incorporate UX using VR, AR and touch-less interactions. Many internet facing applications might need to go through this new form of modernization, resulting in increased opportunities and challenges for application development and maintenance.

 

Summary:

In a nutshell, we can forecast that AR, VR and Touch less gestures would redefine user experience and would become inevitable for the enterprises to not just market their products but rather achieve the customer loyalty to their products. Though these technologies have not become mainstream in many of the industries except gaming, it won't be far before the mindset of customers forces the enterprises to rethink their digital strategy. As far as technology partners are considered, they should build the competencies to handle the surge from this digital wave.

 

References:

http://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/gartners-top-10-technology-trends-2017/

http://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/it-leaders-pay-attention-to-augmented-reality/

https://www.oculus.com/rift/

https://vr.google.com/daydream/

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/hololens

https://atap.google.com/soli/

http://www.strategyr.com/MarketResearch/Mobile_Augmented_Reality_MAR_Market_Trends.asp

https://webvr.info/

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