Whether you think conversational AI is the future of your organization and you need to jump headfirst into embracing the emerging technology, or you think conversational AI has virtually nothing to offer your business, you may be right! But you can't know for sure unless you have a solid grasp of what conversational AI is and what it isn't.
As with any hot new technology, it’s easy for those relatively unfamiliar with the technology to latch on to vague impressions or stereotypes of particular tools without spending a lot of time getting into the weeds. That can be understandable. After all, hot new technology, by definition, hasn’t been around forever; it doesn’t have a track record, and many potential users may have never used the new tech themselves or even know anyone who’s tried it out.
It's important to evaluate new tech that might provide advantages to one’s business or even disrupt an entire industry, but it’s impossible to dive deeply into every new tool that comes onto the market. Companies might lose ground to competitors if they sit on the sidelines too long trying to wait and see how things pan out for early adopters.
In this article, we’ll look at conversational AI and discuss some common myths, misconceptions, and misunderstandings around conversational AI. But first, we’ll talk about what conversational AI is.
What is Conversational AI?
Without a baseline understanding of what conversational AI is, it’s easy to fall prey to misconceptions, and it’s more difficult to understand what conversational AI is not. Conversational AI can be thought of as a set of technologies that allow humans to converse with computer applications and the devices that support those applications.
Conversational AI can be thought of as a collection of three key elements:
Machine Learning (ML) – is the ability of computers to get better at their core tasks through repetition and interaction with humans. A simple example is a human asking their virtual assistant a question, the virtual assistant providing an answer and asking if the answer is what the human was looking for and the human responding “no.” This feedback prompts the computer to reevaluate its answer and provide a better response the next time a similar question arises.
Natural Language Processing (NLP) – allows computers to understand humans without the humans needing to write computer code or even speak perfectly. Good NLP can understand what humans are saying if those humans use slang, abbreviations, bad grammar, etc. It’s all about processing the natural way people speak.
Intelligent Analysis – refers to the ability of an application to process the inputs it receives and make recommendations or provide responses to humans based on those inputs. For example, a conversational AI tool can deduce from the words spoken that the human wants to know the balance due on their credit card or the status of their online purchase.
Myths, Misconceptions, and Misunderstandings About Conversational AI
Now the not-so-true stuff—the kinds of "facts" that are pervasive and influential but may be misleading or outright false.
Conversational AI is Complex
Technology always sounds complicated, especially new technology. Conversational AI sounds so sci-fi that some potential users may doubt their ability to incorporate the technology effectively into their operations. “Incorporating new technology into an organization’s day-to-day workflow can feel daunting, but with conversational AI it doesn’t have to be,” says the Editorial Team of Inside Big Data. They point out that these “low-code or no-code platforms” make it possible for employees with little or no technical know-how “to iterate quickly instead of making time- and cost-intensive changes through technical teams or outside vendors." This ease and accessibility mean that businesses can make broader use of AI across many business functions and processes.
Conversational AI is a Plug-and-Play
While conversational AI tools don't necessarily require a team of tech wizards to operate them, that doesn't mean conversational AI is something that can be plugged in and set loose right out of the box. Conversational AI needs to be trained so that it provides the right responses to prompts. This is where machine learning comes into play, but even with ML, conversational AI has to be guided by humans to ensure it's learning the right things and to provide the feedback loop that ensures ongoing performance improvement.
Conversational AI is Limited to Pre-Programmed Answers
People often confuse conversational AI with chatbots. While the two technologies are often intertwined, they are distinct. A chatbot is an application that can communicate with humans through NLP. But a chatbot may or may not possess other elements of conversational AI, such as machine learning or intelligent analysis. For example, a basic chatbot may be able to understand spoken human commands, but if the human informs it that the task was completed incorrectly, the chatbot will repeat the same mistake the next time it's prompted because it can't learn from past mistakes.
Conversational AI is Omniscient
On the other end of the misconception spectrum is the belief that conversational AI is all-knowing. While conversational AI can leverage machine learning and connections to the internet, it’s not – and is not meant to be – a universal expert on all topics. Even popular consumer conversational AI tools like Siri and Alexa sometimes fail to correctly answer fairly basic questions (aside from what’s the weather today, how many centimeters per inch, etc.); and when asked obscure questions these tools often simply resort to an online search, returning information only as accurate as the online source.
Conversational AI has a lot to offer for many industries and businesses. For others, the technology may not offer much at this point. It's risky to decide on whether or not to invest in new technology without a firm understanding of that technology, its capabilities, and its limitations. Hopefully, this article has helped dispel some of the more pervasive myths, misconceptions, and misunderstandings about conversational AI. Because what you don’t know about conversational AI might surprise you.
Ready to learn more about how you might be able to employ conversational AI in your business? NITCO can help. Get in touch to learn more about NITCO’s process improvement solutions.