Cast your mind back to the early days of apps and remember all the confusion and misunderstanding about them.
"What’s an app?" "Will they replace websites?" "Will there be a Tetris app?". All those sorts of questions.
Well, we’re experiencing the very same befuddlement about chatbots today.
But one thing is clear, chatbot growth is on an upward trajectory. The US chatbot market was valued at $190.8 million in 2016, Grand View Research expects the global chatbot market to reach $1.23 billion by 2025 (see below).
So let’s delve into what are chatbots and why they're growing and set to explode in the coming months and years.
What is a chatbot?
First of all, let's be clear on what a chatbot is. A chatbot is software that interacts with a human being over a messaging app.
You’ll have heard the looser term ‘bots’. Are bots and chatbots the same thing?
No, not really.
A bot is the generic term for a computer program that automates tasks. The internet, for example, is full of bots (such as web crawlers that index web pages). Modern cars use bots to know when to apply the anti-lock breaks. Amazon's recommendations engine - there's a bot behind that too.
Bot’s perform tasks what are known as ANI, or Artificial Narrow Intelligence, that are both simple and structurally repetitive. Tasks that a human could do in principle but a bot can do much quicker and more effectively. And without all the tea breaks.
A chatbot is a type of bot. Chatbots engage with people using a conversational or “chat” interface using text or voice inputs. They simulate how humans interact when conversing.
Chatbots can complete simple actions like forecasting the weather like with the Poncho chatbot, all the way to more sophisticated things like helping customers research and book hotel rooms, like the Marriott International's chatbot example (see video below).
There is an ever-increasing amount of uses for chatbots - and this is only set to increase as the technology gets smarter and businesses get more confident in using them.
So now you know what a chatbot is. A chatbot is a type of bot. One which uses a conversational interface and mimics human interaction.