It‘s 2016 and still the chatbots don’t understand us

It‘s 2016 and still the chatbots don’t understand us

It feels like it’s been a year and a half since Silicon Valley started spreading the gospel that messaging was set to revolutionize the use of mobile devices, ushering in the post-app era.

Despite bold announcements by companies including Facebook, Google und Microsoft, the development of a whole raft of new tools and a load of new “bots”, not much has really happened. Consumers are still much more likely to communicate with companies by means of classic SMS messages (76 percent) than via messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger or Skype. The predicted tectonic shift in user habits is nowhere to be seen.

Chinese app WeChat is often held aloft as a blueprint for the anticipated messaging revolution. This app allows users in China to read news, watch videos, call taxis, order food or buy movie tickets – amongst other things. But people are quick to overlook the fact that WeChat has grown up in an entirely different digital environment to the US or Western Europe, where users already carry out these tasks via dedicated smartphone apps.

“There is no Google Play Store in China. You have a bunch of competing app stores,” “WIRED” quotes Tencent manager Lukens Orthwein as saying. “So WeChat could become a more trusted brand than any app store.”  And in any case, he believes that Silicon Valley has misconstrued WeChat as being a totally comprehensive service. Even if an app allows one to book flight tickets or hail cabs, that never turned them into killer apps. “It was really all content-related stuff,” Orthwein explains. To put it slightly differently: WeChat is much more about consuming information than completing tasks.

The app with the greatest potential to step up as a western WeChat is Facebook subsidiary WhatsApp, according to “WIRED” writer Cade Metz. This messaging service is used by more than a billion people around the globe, and in many parts of the world it’s one of the primary means of communication. But almost 11 months after announcing moves in this direction, WhatsApp has still not made any tools available to allow companies to build on the WhatsApp service.

Meanwhile, Facebook and Microsoft have been trying to popularize the concept of “chatbots“, which are small bits of code that enable users to communicate with businesses in plain speech. However, despite the use of deep-learning resources the chatbots have so far proven neither able to understand natural speech in a useful way, nor to provide meaningful responses. So the best chatbots are currently the ones that keep things simple. You try them for fun, but probably nothing more. The most intelligent tech companies have just not been able to come up with more than that so far, in their quest to make messaging the next big thing. You can imagine just how great it will be one day, but that day is still a long way off.

So it looks like the good old SMS is still going to be serving us for quite some time. It also works on mobile phones that don’t have smart functionality and at locations where there is no (useful) access to the internet. With Retarus Cloud SMS Services you send short messages quickly and reliably to recipients all around the globe – directly from your email client, from your web browser or automatically from the business application of your choice. Over Retarus’ Global Delivery Network with its impressive network of aggregators, you reach 99 percent of all mobile networks on all continents. Find out more about Retarus’ Cloud SMS Services here or directly from your local Retarus contact Person.

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