The success of 82ASK, later Texperts in the UK and ChaCha in the US, was proof of how popular chat bots combined with human intelligence could be, even though in my personal experience, most of the time was actually spent trying to figure out how to trick the bots with crazy questions. These bots were chat services that utilized SMS, where questions were texted in to the service, and there were real people who received the request and in turn sent back the answer via an SMS text response. The requests were primarily ‘searches’ or questions that required an answer to be looked up. Remember at that time mobile search was extremely slow (no 3G or LTE) and most mobile users had limited accessibility to mobile data altogether because it was so expensive. Today, many smartphone owners or those possessing other mobile capable devices use voice control to ask questions to Siri on an Apple mobile device or Google on an Android mobile device. And today, like in the past, there are those that try and stump Siri and Google with crazy questions or requests for pure entertainment. No doubt the technology and heuristics have improved significantly, but as many of us have experienced even with the latest voice recognition software and technology, there is still a lot more work that needs to be done to make it completely user friendly, without having to repeat or rephrase continuously. And chat bots will most likely be plagued with similar weaknesses in the beginning as well, but will be able to handle straightforward and relatively simple interactions. In the near future there will still be a need for human intervention, in terms of moderating communication exchanges and to man call centers to answer more complex questions.
Here are some key questions only the future can answer: