How to create an intelligent ChatBot

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A.I. Bots are computer programmes designed to simulate a human conversation. They’re used to help with things like making a dinner reservation, adding an appointment to your calendar or suggesting the fastest route home.

ChatBots are an increasingly common form of bot that live in messenging apps, iMessage or like WhatsApp. They’ve been making big waves in the tech community this year, and with Facebook’s recent announcement that ChatBots are coming to Messenger, there’s no stopping them.  

The idea of intelligent bots has been around a very long time.

Exactly 70 years ago one of the World’s first computers was built by Alan Turing, the British Mathematician and Computer Scientist. Those of you familiar with Benedict Cumberbatch in his starring role in the ‘Imitation Game’ will recognise the name.

Turing wrote a paper in 1950 called ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’ which was not published until 1969, 15 years after his death. In this paper he wrote about the relationship between computers and nature, and the possibility of artificial intelligence.  

Turing described a basic test, aptly named the Turing Test, which consists of a person asking questions via keyboard to both a person and an intelligent machine. If the computer's answers cannot be distinguished from those of the person, after a reasonable amount of time, the machine is intelligent.

The Turing Test has become the standard measure for the artificial intelligence community. Despite ChatBots having had their first resurgence about 10 years ago, the bots of that time could only do specific tasks and most would fail the Turing Test.

Bot Design vs. App Design                                                  

Fast forward to today and bots have come a long way. We still measure their intelligence against the Turing Test, but also judge them by their ease of use from a user perspective. This is something that software designers refer to as user experience, or UX design.

You can see UX express itself every day in the menus, buttons and screens as you tap and swipe your way through apps like Facebook, Uber and Snapchat.

But when you move to a purely conversational platform like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or SMS you take away all the nice bright colours and cool functionality that help to make these apps so great.

So how do you make a great Bot UX?

This is one of the key questions when optimising design for a conversation. Chatbots may be old, but their design or UX is new, and ensuring your bot is Turing Test smart is no longer enough to stand out.

Chatbot UX should be smooth, have slick menus and ultimately be engaging. After all, optimising for design means optimising for engagement – the aim is to keep users coming back.

Not all bots should be designed to replace apps. Better apps will replace apps and a bot offers a very different user experience than an app.

Natural conversation

The best ChatBots talk like a human in natural language.

This is a mistake I see plenty of Facebook Messenger bots make every day. Even a butler in a high end hotel would never start a conversation with “Hi, my name is Owen and I’m here to serve you anything you want. Go on give me a try by asking me what drink you want?” What kind of person speaks like this?

Natural language processing (NLP) is the interaction of computers and humans in natural language i.e. how people actually speak. Why ask me an open question then lead me with a specific request that you want me to ask you? This may work for a toddler but not for tech savvy adults.

The experience should be seamless

This one’s important. If I access a Chatbot in Messenger, it should keep me in Messenger, not send me from one platform to another. There’s nothing worse than being sent from a messenger, to a browser, on to email for verification and so on.

A brilliant example of a company doing all of this very well at the moment is X.AI, led by founder Dennis Mortensen. The team at X.AI have team developed an impressive virtual assistant called Amy Ingram. Simply cc Amy into your emails, and she schedules all your meetings and manages your diary for you.

Another great example is Kayak’s Facebook Messenger Chatbot. It can find and book your flight, hotel and hire car anywhere in the world. And all without leaving conversation in Messenger.


About WealRo

Owen Haggith-Khonje is the Founder of WealRo, a London based tech startup that’s using artificial intelligence to revolutionise the way people manage their personal finances.

WealRo are one of 5 ambitious startups taking part in Capital One’s Growth Labs - a 10 week FinTech Accelerator Program designed to help startups develop new ideas into working products.

Visit WealRo to find out more and sign up to their A.I. finance coach.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of Capital One.