Spotted This Week: The rise of the chatbot

The chatbot is a computer program designed to stimulate conversation with human users, especially over the internet. Conversations are like a game of tennis: talk, reply, talk, reply.

The most famous are Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana but chatbots have come to light recently after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg proclaimed that the “era of the chatbot is upon us”.

Facebook are likely to invest more into this area of technology, but recently in the news regarding this, Twitter has been mentioned. The social media platform is said to have many ‘socialbots’ which infiltrate social groups and may become influential. They are designed to send tweets using a set of rules, pick up common words on a certain topic and put together sentences. The worry is how does the audience recognise these false tweets?

With the power of social media growing and being used as a referral for many it is an interesting situation to monitor. For an extreme example will we see competitors set socialbots up to promote negative news about each other.

Can hospitality businesses use chatbots for customer service and answering questions?

Yes, if the questions are clear – ‘where is the restaurant?’, ‘what is the Wi-Fi code?’ and others similar to this.

However, more in depth questions are difficult at this stage. The bots also lack any human aspect, there is no empathy which is far too complicated to insert into the bots. They would have to have humour or the nuance used in social interactions to really be anywhere near a human interaction.

Therefore the technology lacks the ability to form any relationship because it is not a responsive interaction.

 

In China users of WeChat texting service can pay for restaurants within the chat app.

 

Twitter is said to have 10 million fake Twitter accounts already set up.

Uber taxi bookings, Wall Street Journal and Expedia already use or are planning to use the bots.

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