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The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Bots

What are chatbots? Why are they such a big opportunity? How do they work? How can I build one?

These are the questions we’re going to answer for you right now. Ready? Let’s do this.

What Is A ChatBot?

A chatbot is a service, powered by rules and sometimes Artificial Intelligence, that you interact with via a chat interface. The service could be any number of things, ranging from functional to fun, and it could live in any major chat product (Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, Text Messages, etc.).

If you haven’t wrapped your head around it yet, don’t worry. Here’s an example to help you visualise a chatbot.

Example:

If you wanted to buy shoes from Nordstrom online, you would go to their website, look around until you find the shoes you wanted, and then you would purchase them.

If Nordstrom makes a bot, which I’m sure they will, you would simply be able to message Nordstrom on Facebook. It would ask you what you’re looking for and you would simply… tell it. Instead of browsing a website, you will have a conversation with the Nordstrom bot, mirroring the type of experience you would get when you go into the retail store.

Examples of ChatBots

Buying shoes isn’t the only thing chatbots can be used for. Here are a couple of other examples:

Weather bot. Get the weather whenever you ask.

Grocery bot. Help me pick out and order groceries for the week.

News bot. Ask it to tell you whenever something interesting happens.

Life advice bot. I’ll tell it my problems and it helps me think of solutions.

Personal finance bot. It helps me manage my money better.

Scheduling bot. Get me a meeting with someone on the Messenger team at Facebook.

A bot that’s your friend. In China there is a bot called Xiaoice, built by Microsoft, that over 20 million people talk to.

See? With bots, the possibilities are endless. You can build anything imaginable, and I encourage you to do just that. But why make a bot? Sure, it looks cool, it’s using some super advanced technology, but why should someone spend their time and energy on it?

It’s a huge opportunity. HUGE.

Why ChatBots Are Such A Big Opportunity

You are probably wondering: “Why does anyone care about chatbots? They look like simple text based services. What’s the big deal?”

Great question. I’ll tell you why people care about chatbots. It’s because for the first time ever people are using messenger apps more than they are using social networks.

Let that sink in for a second. People are using messenger apps more than they are using social networks. So, logically, if you want to build a business online, you want to build where the people are. That place is now inside messenger apps. This is why chatbots are such a big deal. It’s potentially a huge business opportunity for anyone willing to jump headfirst and build something people want.

But, how do these bots work? How do they know how to talk to people and answer questions? Isn’t that artificial intelligence and isn’t that insanely hard to do? Yes, you are correct, it is artificial intelligence, but it’s something that you can totally do yourself. Let me explain.

How ChatBots Work

There are two types of chatbots, one functions based on a set of rules, and the other more advanced version uses machine learning. What does this mean?

ChatBot that functions based on rules: This bot is very very limited. It can only respond to very specific commands. If you say the wrong thing, it doesn’t know what you mean. This bot is only as smart as it is programmed to be.

ChatBot that functions using machine learning: This bot has an artificial brain AKA Artificial Intelligence. You don’t have to be ridiculously specific when you are talking to it. It understands language, not just commands. This bot continuously gets smarter as it learns from conversations it has with people.

Bots are created with a purpose. A store will likely want to create a bot that helps you purchase something, where someone like Comcast might create a bot that can answer customer support questions. You start to interact with a chatbot by sending it a message.

Artificial Intelligence

So, if these bots use Artificial Intelligence to make them work well… isn’t that really hard to do? Don’t I need to be an expert at artificial intelligence to be able to build something that has Artificial Intelligence?

Short answer? No, you don’t have to be an AI expert to create an awesome chatbot that has Artificial Intelligence. Just make sure to not over promise on your application’s abilities. If you can’t make the product good with Artificial Iintelligence right now, it might be best to not put it in yet.

However, over the past decade quite a bit of advancements have been made in the area of artificial intelligence, so much in fact that anyone who knows how to code can incorporate some level of artificial intelligence into their products.

How do you build Artificial Intelligence into your bot? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered, I’ll tell you how to do it in the next section of this post.

How To Build ChatBots

Building a chatbot can sound daunting, but it’s totally doable. You’ll be creating an Artificial Intelligence powered chatting machine in no time (or, of course, you can always build a basic chatbot that doesn’t have a fancy AI brain and strictly follows rules).

You will need to figure out what problem you are going to solve with your bot, choose which platform your bot will live on (Facebook, Slack, etc), set up a server to run your bot from, and choose which service you will use to build your bot.

Read the original article here.

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