Chatbots: Examples and Opportunities

March 2017, Stavros Vassos


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Chat Robots, Chatbots, Bots

What is a chatbot?

Conversational AI

  • tough! but we have seen this before!
  • As for many technologies (and AI itself), the vision is often over-hyped and reality reveals the challenges

Chatbots as
"Mobile Apps"

Chatbots as Mobile Apps

  • Messaging mobile apps, e.g., Facebook Messenger, have most of the UI elements that one needs to build a mobile app: Button, List, Text-box, Images, etc

Chatbots as Mobile Apps

  • While the AI vision aims at chatbots that you talk and ask them anything, a practical alternative is the familiar "screen-based" mobile app experience

  • This is an "app-in-app" experience: instead of downloading a different app for every case, e.g., brand or service, the user can just "talk to" the corresponding persona in the chat app
  • Let's see some examples!


  • Many brands have a Facebook page

  • This already allows to get messages on Messenger


  • It is natural then to add a chatbot as a "smart answering machine" that gives digital marketing content and gives basic information

Tommy Hilfinger

  • More advanced ones may offer personalized content based on a quick interview

Chatbots as Mobile Apps

  • The fashion business has embraced social media and digital marketing and is very active on such solutions

  • Many other cases too:

    • News

    • Retail
    • Travel

    • Celebrities

    • Sports

    • Games

    • ...


  • Very similar to what you would do on the website or the mobile app, with a touch of natural language

Hi Poncho

  • Popular chatbots offer a chat experience with emoticons, animated GIFs, chat slang, etc

Chatbots as Mobile Apps

Links to the ones we saw:

You can find and try some more on chatbot listings such as ChatBottle, BotList

OK, but how do you build a chatbot?

Chatbot Development

Types of chatbots

  • On one side mobile apps-in-apps
  • On the other side conversational AIs

Types of chatbots

  • A lot of tools for building chatbots!

Chatbots as Mobile Apps

A lot of chatbots recast existing solutions such as:

  • website, e.g., showing information about a catalog
  • blog, e.g., showing recent news on topics
  • webapp for an online service, e.g., giving ingormation about the weather
  • e-shop, e.g., for buying clothes and shoes
  • customer support, e.g., answering based on FAQ
  • assistant, e.g., booking appointments
  • ...

Chatbots as Mobile Apps


  • The conversation aspect needs to be very minimal and very curated as it is "one-shot" or "no-memory"
  • Templates work well for "static" responses if we need the bot to use information from dynamic databases, custom solutions need to be developed by experts


  • This is where you need to talk to Chatbot Developing experts ;)

Conversational AI

A practical approach that works:

  • Intent detection based on examples: whatever the user says, the systems map it to one of a small number of curated cases of intents


  • Authored responses for each detected intent

Conversational AI

A practical approach that works:

  • Parameter detection allows for more tailored responses; a lot of pre-trained tools allow to detect common entities such as dates, numbers, colors, etc
  • Typically some programming skills are needed 

Conversational AI


  • The existing developing tools are closer to offerring a "Conversational AI" but still it is far away from a system that understands any question 
  • Lots of simple things that cannot be handled, e.g.,
    "Is X false?" cannot be handled automatically by means of handling "Is X true?" 
  • This is where you need to talk to AI experts ;)


  • If people go off-script, you'll get lots of default answers which makes the experience bad
  • Authors need to handle the "look and feel" of the converstaion, i.e., the "Chatting UX"


Chatting, Texting, Messaging

People communicate more in "text" than in "voice"


*Especially young people!

**Millennials: 20-40 years old at time of writing (2017)

Talking to friends

Talking to friends

Why do people like communicating like this anyway?

  • Asynchronous: keeps you connected with friends through ongoing conversations while being at another context, e.g., at work
  • Fast: perfect for quick information, e.g., "Send me your address"
  • Groups: great for arranging plans for dinner, drinks, hobbies, trips, etc
  • Multimedia: pictures, emoticons, stickers, GIFs! 
  • Casual: easier when talking to people you know less

Talking to companies

Talking to companies

When a company contacts a customer by texting:

  • Less invasive than receiving a phone call: people feel more comfortable in asynchronous and anonymous communication
  • Normal: people are used to talk like this everyday 
  • Personal: people feel they are treated better! e.g., compared to receiving a more "dry" email

Chatting is big

Some platforms are bigger than others

Some platforms are bigger than others


Chatbots are a new channel

  • Targets a large demographic (Millennials)

  • Can be seen as an additional channel along with Website, Social Media, Mobile Apps

  • As the mobile platform is dominating the way we consume information (e.g., in comparison to desktop PCs) the chatbot medium can become "the new website"; it's already "the new mobile app"

Chatbots are easy to build

  • Plenty of DIY solutions for common use cases

  • Plenty of developers available for custom solutions

  • There is a hype similar to the "mobile app craze", you can't go wrong with building one now ;) 

Chatbots are hard to build

  • AI is over-hyped and in reality it needs a lot of effort to build "human-like" assistants

  • No real guidelines for Conversational UX yet!

  • Content is king (here as well)!

  • Similar to website design and development: it's the narrative and the experience that matters ;-)

  • Custom solutions need an expert team to handle all aspects well

Chatbots are a new medium

  • This is just the beginning!

  • Every month the big platforms release more features (Facebook Messenger is leading)

  • Group chat with chatbots

  • C2C (Chatbot to Chatbot) communication

  • Chatting as a common API

  • Hybrid chatbot and human operator ecosystems


Stavros Vassos, AI Architect at
​Twitter: @stavros.vassos

Google+: Chat is the new black