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My day with the chatbots

Order a pizza, a train ticket, a cure... in the future, a host of daily needs will be provided by these robots conversational. But it will be tomorrow... It is

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My day with the chatbots

Order a pizza, a train ticket, a cure... in the future, a host of daily needs will be provided by these robots conversational. But it will be tomorrow...

It is not me who says it, but what the planet high-tech account of gurus and big heads. For Satya Nadella, the big boss of Microsoft, the chatbots are "new applications". Because he has "never met anyone who likes to call a company" (and, frankly, he is not wrong), Mark Zuckerberg thinks that a dialogue with an artificial intelligence service is the customer of tomorrow.

Dialogue, which of course will take place via the messaging service of Facebook, Messenger: open in April 2016, the platform that allows developers to host their bots already had 11000 robots three months later. Twitter, Slack, or Skype are also set. Information? A pizza? A taxi? In 2020, it seems that 80% of european companies have developed their robot to better serve us in the years to come, and that therein lies the future of the customer relationship. And the present? Look closer...

Little "bots" in French

But for the moment, the French public does not have large-thing to be put in the tooth. In the United States, we can already place an order with chatbots Pizza Hut, Domino's Pizza, Chipotle, or Taco Bell, at us it is almost the desert. Apart From Mealou. I began in English, but it seems that he is aware of restaurants of ours... I know what I want (a thai), I indicate my location (Lille) and my budget: all is guided, and very fast. Not bad... Except that when the friend Mealou tells me to test a restaurant ("trust me, it's really good"), appear neither name nor address. "What resto, robot?" "Yes, you'll love it." "No, but I see nothing." "You'll love him." Dialogue of the deaf and hollow belly: ciao, robot, I will go to lunch by other means.

Screenshot of the "bot" of Mealou. I will go eat elsewhere.


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In the taxi, perhaps? I test Uber, never late to an innovation. A simple question on Messenger: is it possible to order a race by the way? The answer (in the negative, the service does not exist for the moment in the USA) it reaches me... 2h30 later. The drivers of Uber (yet human to the latest news) are more vivid than their robots...

Side transport, it is in this good old SNCF is that I do have the knowledge of the chatbot was the most convincing for the moment. It is able to immediately understand a destination and a date, and therefore I propose the routes in a very clear way. A go to to Paris on January 24, 25 euros? Super. But at 5: 30 in the morning... ouch. Later, I tell him? Hop another train at 9h13. It is better, but upon reflection I am going to leave "at the end of the day". My new boyfriend freelancing right away, and sends me a proposal of departure between 17 and 20h. Sold, I reserve with my loyalty card... Oh, no, it gets stuck. Polite and rather nice, the robot rail excuse of not being able to do better: it is "beta".

screen shot of the chatbot Voyages-Sncf: the nice (and clever) bots crossed up here.


Version (big) beta

And this is where the shoe pinches. A Meetic (not tested, my other half sometimes read my articles), which seems to be rather successful, the majority of the bots that I have seen are not so much of the beta version of big betas at all. In most of our "dialogues", I spend more time to click on a choice of predefined type my question in natural language. Even among pioneers in the genre, like the american site Quartz, hailed for its application of information "conversational", the interaction is limited to ask for more information or to zapper: one is for the blow closer to Tinder than a real cat...

The robot-seer does not see well what I want

The more cartoonish? One of the few bots put forward in Messenger in France: Destiline Seer. A little disturbing, this robot is called "medium of birth." And above all, quite limited. It is necessary to choose between "love", "money" and "work": going to work. "The work can sometimes turn into a real hassle. I know that this is not easy in this time..." (thank you). "Please give me your problem." I'm not looking for employment, or to increase (though...), so I opted for "other," for finally making something other than fill in a QUIZ. And enter the question that torments me: will I succeed to make this article to long?

screen shot of the chatbot Destiline Seer: the seer does not like the unexpected...


It was too much for our robot. "OK... Adrien I'm not going to have time to respond to you immediately but I have noted your problem. Here, I will start a consultation in a few minutes. I will contact you later with more specific answers, would you like that?" Finally, my seer cybernetics offers me instead of doing a tour on his site (for a fee, it goes without saying), but "not too late". Even the bots have the right to take a break in the evening, obviously.

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A debatable effectiveness

a summary of this informative day to whisper in the ear of the bots? It is still far from the promises of artificial intelligence. As soon as it comes out of the script, the robot is usually completely dropped. And the service rendered is efficiency relative to: connect, clarify their needs, sort the answers eventually takes a lot of time. According to this blogger of israel, for the moment, the good old Google search is a hundred times more rapid, more fluid and more direct than any chatbot. I confirm... And in the future? One thing is for sure: this is not my robot-seer, who will give us the answer.

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