Real Life Robots

The Turing Test is considered the most reliable test for artificial intelligence in a machine. In order to pass the test, the machine doesn’t need to think. It simply needs to convince you that it’s human.

Cisco has just launched Spark, its automated messenger that will eventually support a range of chat bots operating from one platform. Using Spark, businesses will be able to facilitate realistic conversations with chat bot attendants, similar to the conversation you can have with Siri on an iPhone.

There are two key benefits: the chat bot can handle many of the repetitive conversations that customer service people tire of hearing. And the bots can also work on a variety of platforms. So while Facebook is a good option for B2C purposes, you might also want a bot on your Slack channel to provide information to internal users.

Eventually, we’re likely to see chat bots incorporated into office applications, CRMs and other business systems. The key here is that Cisco’s Spark is just the platform. When a developer has an idea for a bot, it can then use Spark to deploy that bot to a broad audience.

Rise of the Bots

In a real life setting, can any chat bot really pass the Turing test? Applications like Siri do a good job of interpreting millions of questions. In some cases, Siri even has a sense of humour. But we can tell that Siri isn’t real.

The challenge for chat bots is to analyse text that is written in many different ways. Few people who approach chat bots will use perfectly formed sentences. The chat bot will also need to interpret spelling mistakes, and give meaningful answers when sentences are incorrectly punctuated. When you look at the many different ways that a question can be asked, it’s clear that meaningful analysis is not easy.

Nonetheless, the benefits of chat bots are potentially huge. Better service means happier users, and – potentially – increased loyalty. As chat bots become more sophisticated, and investment in the technology increases, it’s highly likely that the language they use will become more natural – and they’ll get better at learning what we want. Over time, virtual customer service agents will be indistinguishable from real customer service agents.

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Written by Scott Ashton July of 2016