Will Software Robots Revolutionize Communication on the Web?
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[Berlin, GERMANY] Conversational software robots, or "bots" for short, could revolutionize communication on the Web. The technology is already available. This is the result of a current study by /:piranhaz focusing on the way bots function, knowledge engineering, project management, and the requirements of communication. Bots lead people through Web sites, provide specialized information, and improve the flow of information between man and machine. A lot of people were able to speak with Twipsy at the Expo in Hanover. Twipsy was not only the Expo's mascot but also a conversational agent.
Powerful e-commerce applications have been a long time coming, but the market is changing rapidly. Call centers are facing competition. For all that the Web has become a part of everyday life for millions of e-citizens (e-government, e-commerce, e-mail), personal contact is vanishing. Avatars and conversational agents are picking up on this trend towards automation. They personalize communication on the Web and are sympathetic listeners to their conversational partners. Eight German manufacturers of software shells for the development of bots answer the questions.
In addition to the avatars we are familiar with from net-based role-playing games, another mysterious expression has come about: synthespians. Synthespians are virtual actors that are used for digital manipulation in film production, particularly for dangerous stunts. But there are other areas of application as well. Oliver Reed died during the filming of Ridley Scott's Gladiator, and missing frames were then generated on a computer. In Kathryn Bigelow's film Strange Days, the enormous crowd at the millennium celebrations was digitally cloned
The technology that was applied to dinosaurs and lifeless dolls in Jurassic Park and Toy Story can also be applied to people. Thanks to the film and entertainment industries, we can expect the demand for virtual humanoids of a professional cinematic standard to increase: just think of E-Cyas and the Terminator. The technological developments for avatars and bots will affect synthespians and vice-versa. We can infer from the study that the next five to ten years will bring some interesting confluences.
Efforts are being made today to enhance bots through higher function building blocks and greater differentiation with internal mechanical autonomous components. The Interprice company promises semi-automatic learning capabilities (machine learning), grammatical analysis as a software component, and knowledge representation.
The authors of the study suspect that manufacturers will follow this example for competitive reasons if nothing else. One can only speculate what effect this will have over the next five years. Conversational bots that are implemented for commercial purposes today - unlike ALICEbot - always reach their dialogue limitations rather quickly, and users are painfully aware of the stiffness of the bots' pre-fabricated answers. Assuming that avatars and bots will be populating web sites to an increasing degree (and this is the prognosis), there will be considerable technological pressure due to user expectations, competition, and new methods from the laboratories.
Images and Speech
Karl Kraus said that language was the most difficult language with which to make yourself understood. Nowhere is this as true as in the communication with a computer. The GUI standard encouraged the intuitive handling of software products, but the flood of information is growing. There are a billion sites on the Web! Everyone wants help with searching for and finding things. There is a real customer demand for a conversational interface. And that is exactly what a bot is. Bots understand natural language, they carry out ta