Rise of the chatbots

Chatbots, or business virtual customer relations staff, are now taking over much of big business, AI Forum NZ executive director Madeline Newman says.

Banks, insurance companies, Spark, Vodafone, energy companies and councils all have chatbots to deal with people’s inquiries, she says, adding that Tower insurance’s chatbot Charlie answers 10,000 utterances a day, or about 2000 conversations daily. Oscar at AirNZ manages 2000 sessions every day. “They gather large amounts of data (to give them something to say) and use natural language processing to ‘talk’ to users – the intent is to mimic natural human language, Madeline explains.

“From a user experience perspective they are aligned as digital humans. Uneeq worked with Mentemia to create a digital John Kirwan life coach. That’s a pretty advanced bot delivering wellbeing coaching.”

Research shows 33 percent of customers’ questions are instantly resolved by chatbots. She predicts that next generation interfaces for chatbots are likely to see these incorporated with augmented reality. “It will be a bit like having a conversation with a virtual bot that is sitting on the chair opposite you, not on a screen.

Imagine sitting down for a chat with Stephen Hawking, Isaac Asimov or Wonder Woman.”

The AI Forum is working closely with the government to develop an AI strategy for New Zealand that includes ethics and principles that will provide the assurance that will underpin trust in AI going forward.

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