Many researchers believe conversational AI will soon be developers’ first priority, surpassing cloud-native and mobile-first projects in importance. Chatbots, built on a foundation of containerized microservices and connecting to back-end systems, are not only an easy way to break into conversational UIs but are also an onramp to building and training artificial intelligence.
But wait — what is a conversational UI?
A conversational UI gives the privilege of interacting with the computer on human terms. It is a paradigm shift from the earlier communications achieved either by entering syntax-specific commands or clicking icons. A conversational interface allows a user to tell the computer what to do. Conversational UI is more social in the way the user contacts, invites, and messages than the traditional apps that are technological in nature where the user downloads and installs.
Rewinding to the BC days — Before Chatbots — customers were assisted by human shop assistants during their visit to a store. The shop assistant used predefined scripts to respond to customer queries. Fast forward to AC — after chatbots hit the market — chatbots on a website are creating conversational websites and interacting with the customer in the same way a shop assistant would do in the past. Conversational UI takes two forms: a voice assistant that allows you to talk and chatbots that allow you to type.
Voice Assistants and Chatbots
Tech giants Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Google have not only introduced voice assistants but are also making the voice assistants smarter day by day. "Hey, Cortana" from Microsoft, "Ok, Google" from Google, and "Hey, Siri" from Apple are classic cases of voice assistants responding to the user by voice command. Users can ask these voice assistants to show the trailer of a movie, book tables at a restaurant, schedule an appointment among other things.
On the chatbot front, Facebook Messenger is a classic example that enables real-time communication. The human-assisted chatbot allows customers to do several things — from transferring money to buying a car. Slack’s Slack Bot is another shining example of a chatbot. This human-assisted chatbot allows the user to do many things. If there is a Slack Bot for scheduling meetings, there is a Slack Bot for tracking coworkers’ happiness and taking lunch orders.
Why Are Companies Betting Big on Conversational UI?
There’s more to the conversational interface than the way they recognize a voice. Conversational interfaces have kindled companies’ interest by presenting an intelligent interface. The intelligence does not result merely from words being recognized as text transcription but from getting a natural language understanding of the intentions behind those words. The intelligence also combines voice technologies, artificial intelligence reasoning, and contextual awareness.
The interface is platform-agnostic, working well across desktops, smartphones, and smartwatches. Conversational UI also works well in devices that do not have screens, such as Amazon Echo. The most alluring feature of conversational interfaces is the way they facilitate frictionless experiences for a user working with a computer.
Conversational Interfaces Are on the Rise
Conversational UI is evolving into the interface of the future. The conversation assistant capability made available through Nuance’s Dragon Mobile Assistant, Samsung’s S-Voice, and Apple’s Siri is just the beginning. Looking into the future, language and reasoning frameworks are going to blend with big data and machine learning to give way for conversational user interfaces that better understand customer wants and needs.
More and more business models will benefit from chatbots. Retail, media companies distributing content, research, and consulting are some of the industries that will derive business value from chatbots.
We'll be entering a new era of computing, where advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence are creating a resurgence of interest in conversational interfaces and natural language processing, creating the potential for conversation as the new mode of interaction with technology.
For the most part, the problem of recognizing spoken input has been largely solved, now opening up a new challenge: how to build a user experience that’s modeled after a natural human conversation.