02 Aug 2017

Chat bots: How to Choose One that Suits Your Needs

How to Really Solve Your Problems with AI and NLP and Not Get a Costly Trinket Instead

No longer conjecture, chat bots are here changing things big time. You think you need one? Are you a newbie to this stuff? Then it’s high time you learn something about them before you miss the boat. Still less unique than humans, chat bots vary no less than automobiles. A city sedan, a jeep, a sports car, or, perhaps, a heavy truck? Careful -- they are not completely interchangeable. Usually, we make our choices based on needs and how well they can be filled by this or that selection. In this way, chat bots fall under three major categories: simple scripted chat bots, scripted chat bots with an Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven graphic GUI, and AI-driven chat bots.

Simple Scripted Chat bots

If your needs are not too detailed and you basically need to offer some (actionable) info to your user and/or guide them through several possible options, the simpler scripted chat bots are the thing for you. You need to share a county-based weather forecast for several neighboring states? This scoop can be delivered to your user by an unpretentious scripted chat bot that you don’t need to invest much in. Are you in the business of selling fruit and vegies? Several goods scripts, several sets of predefined options, and, possibly a basic Natural Language Processing (NLP) layer will do the trick.

Advanced Scripted Chat bots with an AI-Powered GUI

If you keep a large and assorted product inventory or your product or service is complex by nature, a simple chat bot may well fall short of your needs. In this case, the NLP layer of your chat bot will have to be a lot more solid and elaborate for the bot to be able to interpret more complex user queries. This chat bot must then be powered by Artificial Intelligence. Although chat bots of this type may vary in the number and quality of scripts and in their ability to understand the user and their conversational ability, they will never possess a genuine sign of artificial intellect, – the ability to learn things independently. Then you might turn to an AI-driven chat bot -- the third category. Investing a significant amount of funds in such a chat bot would make sense.

Artificial Intelligence-Driven Chat bots

Although conversational bots that belong to the first two types serve many applications, there are still areas that require a much better, broader and more generic communicative ability. Many applications also require the ability to support the user’s decision making processes, for example, if your line of business features of a large number of options, an extensive glossary, or clients who are eager to share their experiences. A case in point would be the Travel vertical. So, we can list requirements an advanced AI-driven conversational bot must meet. It must:
  1. Have a powerful Natural Language Understanding and Generation layers to support extensive interactions with users.
  2. Learn on its own; i.e., be able to build upon the knowledge that was initially embedded in it.
  3. Consequentially, have a constantly growing conversational ability.
  4. Offer as many options and suggestions as possible while guiding the user toward their goal.
  5. And, most importantly, be able to make decisions on the user’s behalf, based on information that is not available to the user.
  In other words, a truly intelligent conversational bot must be able to constantly educate itself along established lines and use the knowledge it has acquired in assisting your users. It must be able to make the user aware of a maximally large number of options and also make suggestions in order to help them arrive at a decision. For example, while helping the user find an apartment to rent, your chat bot must gather and refine their requirements, give them an equal number of options, extend similar options located near their area of interest and offer judgement on which of the existing options are more in line with the user’s wishes and expectations. While helping a user who is trying to procure a commodity, it must be able to refine the user requirements for both the provider and commodity, locate the suitable providers and, finally, tell the user which of the provider’s is likely to be the best fit.   If you feel that the business you are in requires using a sophisticated conversational bot -- you sell antiques and fine arts, not bricks -- you must be aware of what can make the whole thing possible so that you can look for one in the right place.

Artificial Intelligence: What Can Makes It All Possible

There is only one thing in Artificial Intelligence that can make your conversational bot truly intelligent and an avid learner: Natural Language Processing (NLP) with Machine Learning techniques.   NLP equips your bot with the gift of gab and the ability to interpret user-provided information. The more powerful your bot’s NLP layer, the less clunky and a better talker your chat bot is. However, the NLP technologies and techniques are many. When a chat bot development team tells you they have NLP experts on board to contribute to your bot, you must make sure they have a good command of Information Extraction and not just, for example, Sentiment Analysis. Many NLP providers have Sentiment Analysis for their anchor (and, in actuality, often, the sole) service offering.   Often, a field of activity or a business domain is characteristic of a significant number of aspects such as industry-specific terms, phenomena, historical information, and meaningful personalities. If this is the case with you, your bot’s NLP level will have to include an ontology. Essentially, an ontology is a hierarchy of phenomena and interrelations between them within a specific area of activity or business domain. Considering yours, find out if your provider is experienced in ontology engineering.   However, a chat bot becomes truly intelligent and capable of learning new things due to Machine Learning. Machine Learning allows you to train your bot from past conversations or other data (e.g., recordings, movies, books -- you name it) and then use the knowledge gained in favor of your user. So, before signing with a chat bot development team to develop an AI-driven chat bot, you must also check if they have the knowledge of and experience with Machine Learning algorithms.

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