Bots 101

by Kamal Devaki (VP of Technology)

 

OK, so what is a bot?

A bot is a simple computer program, that builds it’s digital persona by interacting and helping humans to do things. A chatbot is a bot that lives inside a chat product, for example, Facebook Messenger. A bot can help to reduce the number of applications you need to manage by providing a unified interface which integrates with them all.

Bots seem to be everywhere these days. Cortana, Siri, Alexa, Slackbots, Skypebots, Facebook Messenger bots… they are already very much here.

We’re bringing machines closer to human thinking. Right now, the world is trying to build bots which analyse, understand and even predict contextual human working patterns. This leads us to create a user experience which is mimics how our brains respond to real life events.

Chatbots are just like another user interface. We need to understand how it performs against what currently exists in user experience domain: humans interacting with humans. So what can a bot do better and faster than a human?

Bots are good at looking up data, compute and do things which need a million of fact-based options and respond with the best possible solution. But bots are still in their dawn of learning to read between the lines like humans do. At the end of the day, innovation is born between the lines. If you want to know when your next phone bill is, a bot can tell you. How much it will cost? A bot can tell you. But why you might have been over-charged? Time to talk to a human. We need to make the bots to interpret, learn and predict the contextual decision making of a human. There is no better way to deliver effective support or marketing, without contextual intelligence.

With the current IT industry striving for productivity, cost optimization and automation of repetitive tasks, bots will be the norm.

 

How are they built?

The most popular framework is BotKit. Bots built with Botkit can hear things, say things and reply to what they hear. The bot gets activated when the user utters the word or phrase, let’s say “hello”. The bot returns a controller object to which event handlers are attached. Each event handler defines a new “When a human says THIS, the bot does THAT”. We can specify what the bot should look for and respond to.

Why Botkit is more popular than bot framework is its ability to extend for cross platform functions. The functionality of Botkit can be extended using middleware functions such Microsoft LUIS, IBM WATSON, Mongo, Keen and much more. Through Microsoft Bot Framework connector, bot developers can connect their bot to previously out of reach platforms. These include Skype, Kik, Group.me, Telegram, and SMS, along with drop-in replacement connectivity to Slack and Facebook Messenger.

The technology leaps into creating new kind of user interface possibilities that extends all of the five senses (see, hear, feel, touch, taste). This paves way for an unified user experience which might also go a step further incorporating augmented and virtual reality.

 

What could bots be used for?

Here are some potential use cases for bots.

  1. A bot that uncovers hidden demand triggers based on local events and social trends to help the retailers accurately plan their store every day.
  2. A bot that analyzes and predicts the stock market.
  3. A bot to read, sort and assess financial and market data and suggest growth opportunities for corporate clients (Marketing and Sales Intelligence).
  4. A bot that answers legal questions and questions on government services.
  5. A bot which provides a list of suggested movies along with a gist of IMDB reviews on each movie.

Got your own idea for a bot? Looking to develop it? Get in touch with us!


 

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