The interaction with computers and our devices changes significantly as a result of technological progress. It is inevitable that our working habits will change as well: New technologies and developments allow for innovative forms of interaction, making menu-based hierarchical navigation and form-based interfaces redundant.
The key technologies are natural language understanding, both voice- and text-based, as well as virtual and augmented reality. Having these technologies in the context of digitization, human work can be assisted in whole new ways. In this article, we focus on the interaction with chatbots and digital assistants, who do a great job at assisting humans in their daily tasks.
Chatbots vs. Digital Assistants
The original idea of conversational interfaces – i.e. chatbots and digital assistants – exists for more than 50 years: And for just as long, researchers have investigated this field, and interfaces were built using a conversational approach (think e.g. Terminal-inputs).
But where’s the difference between chatbots and digital assistants? They’re similar, aren’t they? At a first glance, chatbots and digital assistants such as Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon’s Alexa seem to solve similar problems using text- and voice-based interaction. However, we consider it to be imperative to clearly differentiate these two terms, which is what we’ll illustrate in this article.
Chatbots: The smart way of B2C interaction
When investigating current trends in customer interaction, chatbots are omnipresent. According to Wikipedia, chatbots are:
A chatbot is a computer program […] which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods. […] Chatbots are typically used in dialog systems for various practical purposes including customer service or information acquisition. Some [chatbots] use sophisticated natural language processing systems, but many simpler systems scan for keywords within the input, then pull a reply with the most matching keywords, or the most similar wording pattern, from a database.Wikipedia
Chatbots thus offer a text-based interaction or communication between the human and the “machine” (usually a system/software).
Chatbots become smarter
This text-based communication can be extended by additional interaction elements – chatbot can, for example, integrate images, videos, audio messages, and file attachments. These media elements can be uploaded directly in the chatbot or referenced with the help of a link and annotated using text messages.
Chatbot messages can be combined with action prompts, i.e. attaching a call-to-action button to a message. Automation of tasks and backend-processes is also possible with chatbots, however, usually in a limited scope. Chatbots can typically be found in B2C use-cases, where chatbots take over the role of first-level support. This helps both organizations and customers: Access individualized service 24/7, and freeing capacities of specialized support employees, who can now focus on complex cases and value-adding relationship-building.
Digital assistants: Human-computer interaction 4.0
The trend towards smartphones further accelerates the daily use of software: Anytime and anywhere you go. This, combined with the technological maturity of five key enabling technologies – (1) Mobile Computing, (2) Artificial Intelligence, (3) Conversational Interfaces, (4) Speech Recognition and Output, and (5) Enterprise Application Integration –, will make every smartphone home to a digital assistant, in order to easily access their software.
X-to-Employee Communication: Smart Work with AI-Assistants
A key feature of digital assistants is that they can enable X-to-Employee communication (X2E): You can talk to any software-system you’re currently using, regardless of the device you’re using (Mobile vs. Desktop). Instead of navigating through complex hierarchies and filling in forms, simply ask your digital assistant to provide relevant information, or to perform a task for you. This may sound like a future-scenario, but you’d be surprised what’s possible today.
What differentiates a digital assistant to a chatbot?
So far, a chatbot and a digital assistant are quite similar: Both provide access to information using a conversational interface.
The easiest way to think about it: A digital assistant is focused more on the specific user and helps in various ways and use-cases (think ”my“ personal assistant for any task), whereas a chatbot is use-case-driven and addresses a larger group of users (think “company X’s support-chatbot for their customers”) .
Wikipedia too is illustrating this differentiation:
A virtual assistant […] is a software agent that can perform tasks or services for an individual. […] The capabilities and usage of virtual assistants are expanding rapidly, with new products entering the market and a strong emphasis on voice user interfaces. Apple and Google have large installed bases of users on smartphones. Microsoft has a large installed base of Windows-based personal computers, smartphones and smart speakers. Alexa has a large install base for smart speakers.Wikipedia
We at Neohelden always use the terminology of the digital AI-assistant, emphasizing the capabilities of combining a virtual assistant for work with AI-systems, that can – over the mid- to long-term – semi-automate routine tasks and tedious parts of your work.
So, if you’re looking for an AI-assistant to smoothen your work, feel free to shoot us a message, and we can discuss customizing Neo to your company’s needs.