Were you expecting more from chatbots in 2017?

In the past few years, we have seen lots of companies add chatbots into their flurry of services. They were meant to better connect companies to their consumers, resulting in immediate action that wouldn’t be possible without AI. But today, chatbots haven’t made the huge impact many have hoped for.

A recent article in Venture Beat explains that chatbots have missed the mark for a number of reasons: “Even discounting Microsoft’s Twitter bot becoming a neo-nazi supporter and other bots gone wrong, overall advances in the chatbot industry have failed to deliver the huge benefits we were promised.”

Venture Beat suggests that the main problem with implementing chatbots to replace humans as customer care operators or personal shoppers is that they do not yet produce seamless humanoid conversation. Chatbots cannot understand the nuances of language, like jokes, empathy, or intuition, that human conversation is built on. Venture Beat suggests AI could be decades away from perfecting this. But telling people in the now that they can interact with a bot similarly to the way they talk to a human is a recipe for disappointment on behalf of the consumer.

The second problem with chatbots in 2017, according to Venture Beat, was its wide, optimistic, and confusing interface. The article suggests that developers “dreamed of being like Tony Stark and exchanging witty jokes and deep thoughts with an omnipresent and seemingly omniscient cyber assistant. Well, that was a mistake. Conversations are hard to sustain for non-humans, and once a computer loses track of where it is in a two-way interaction, results can quickly break the ‘magic’ of the whole situation.”

Chatbots could be more successful with “clearly defined paths and funnels” that lead the user toward a functional goal by answering questions and providing information. Bots can still use natural language processing, but the realms of interaction should be more clearly defined with systematic boundaries.

Venture Beat’s final reason for the failure of chatbots in 2017 is that they are seen as a technology of giant name companies, and consequently not friendly for small businesses. The article explains that “throwing around names like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing scares the heck out of the average small business owner.” If your small business is already doing well on Facebook or Instagram, you might see unnecessary risk in adding a chatbot to their Messenger that is expensive and hard to understand and to measure.

“We need to come up with simpler yet equally effective solutions that bring this technology into our daily lives and help small business owners leverage the power of automated social interactions,” says Venture Beat.

Hopefully developers will be able to take this advice and create a more usable interface for an incredibly accessible platform.