Thirty years ago, it was a big deal when schools got their first computers. Today, it’s a big deal when students get their own laptops.
According to futurist Thomas Frey, in 14 years it’ll be a big deal when students learn from robot teachers over the internet.
It’s not just because the technology will be that sophisticated, Frey says, but because the company responsible for it will be the largest of its kind.
“I’ve been predicting that by 2030 the largest company on the internet is going to be an education-based company that we haven’t heard of yet,” Frey, the senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute think tank, tells Business Insider.
Frey’s prediction comes amid a boom in artificial intelligence research. Google is developing DeepMind, a complex piece of machine-learning software. IBM is developing Watson-powered robots. Amazon is developing drone delivery.
Chatbots & messaging are the future of marketing. MIT’s ELIZA pioneered the revolution in the 1960s and Siri took the trend mainstream in 2011. Now chatbots are used by brands in every industry to go beyond passive advertisements and engage customers with interactive conversations.
What are chatbots, exactly? A chatbot is a conversational computer program that customers can interact with via a messaging interface. Instead of pushing buttons on a website or mobile app, you can get things done simply by chatting with a chatbot and asking questions naturally like “What movies are playing tonight?” or “What’s the latest score in the NBA finals?”. Chatbots can be found on platforms like SMS, Facebook Messenger, Apple iMessage, Slack, Kik, Telegram, and WeChat.
Since we cover the best of bots, we’re constantly asked “Who are the most innovative companies using chatbots?” To answer this question, we surveyed TOPBOTS subscribers, conducted user interviews, and tested every single bot ourselves to discover which brand chatbots are delighting users.
Chatbots are already working hard in the hospitality industry, from taking fast food orders to helping travelers plan their trips. While conversational AI is very much in its infancy in the hotel sector, it certainly has plenty of potential, says Nigel Symonds, Hospitality Consultant at Avenue9. So how could chatbots change the hotel industry?
Elsewhere in the travel industry, Expedia, again taking advantage of Facebook’s technology, launched a basic bot to help travelers book hotels. According to Symonds, in order to stave off fierce competition from online travel agencies (OTAs) and encourage direct booking, hotels should be looking to follow suit. “From our perspective, hotels definitely want to start integrating this technology,” he says. Indeed, Hyatt Hotels, who began using Facebook Messenger in late 2015 told Skift that “creating and deploying a Facebook Messenger bot is something that we will explore in the future.”
2. Enriching the pre-arrival experience
“Booking additional services is where the power is,” says Symonds. At the moment, hotels usually send out an automated email several days in advance of a guest’s arrival, suggesting amenities like spa treatments, airport transfers, and dinner reservations. “It would be great to have chatbots doing this,” he adds. “The benefit of a bot is that it can interact with the guest, asking questions such as whether it’s a special occasion, for instance, and responding with relevant offerings.”
This article originally appeared in JLL Real News on 03 October 2016.
In May 2016, Booking.com launched a ‘Booking Messages Interface’ which promised to ‘empower customers to personalise their stay’ by using only their smartphone. In a further bid to improve guest communication, the giant of the OTA world has also promised to offer full integration with Facebook Messenger’s emerging ‘chat bot’ technology.
These new services intend to replace the previous method used by guests to contact hotels, which utilised a pop-up box on the Booking.com website that resulted in an email sent to the hotel in question. Unfortunately, given the communication channel employed, this meant that responses were often delayed by up to 48 hours.
Booking.com’s new messaging service utilises their existing Pulse app which is currently used by hotel staff to view bookings and daily lists of arrivals and departures. The addition of guest messaging within Pulse makes this particular app a fascinating tool for hoteliers and front desk teams.
Instant messaging is a great step forward, but in this post, we’re going to focus on chat bots, because we can guarantee the mere mention of them in the first paragraph will have raised one of your eyebrows, and we think they could prove rather useful for hotels.
What is a chat bot?
If you’ve ever said “Hello, Google” or “Hey, Siri” to your mobile phone, you’ve engaged in light conversation with a piece of software. Chat bots follow the same principal by bringing automated customer service to businesses and consumers. Basic questions can now be answered by clever algorithms that rely on a standard set of responses and a healthy dose of artificial intelligence (AI).
Chat bots, like Siri and search engines, are able to respond to natural questioning, thus negating the need to type in specific queries in order to obtain the right answer. They understand inference and are becoming increasingly adept at detecting regional dialect and slang. It is – almost – like talking to a human being.
Facebook? What have they got to do with chat bots?
Chances are either yourself or someone in your household uses Facebook Messenger. It is estimated to have one billion active users globally, who rely on it daily to communicate with friends and relatives. Messenger exists as an app in its own right, separate to that of the standard Facebook service.
The team at Facebook were quick to spot the opportunity to extend Messenger’s capability by enabling third parties to tap into its communication channel. As a result, the concept of chat bots was born, and following extensive development, these virtual assistants are now being pitched by the social networking giant to businesses who want to more easily ‘reach people on mobile’.
Facebook’s Messenger chat bots enable customers to ask businesses questions and receive human-like answers instantly, by using an app they already have installed on their smartphone and with which they are completely familiar. Consider the application in retail, where a consumer might ask their favourite shoe shop which running trainers they have available for under £80. Almost instantly, they’ll receive a rich response that features images and links to appropriate products. With a chat bot, such a conversation can be conducted from within Facebook Messenger, negating the need to pick up the phone or install a separate app.
This article originally appeared on www.welcome-anywhere.co.uk on 01 September 2016.
The times they are a-changin’. In our ‘always on’, connected world, guests are becoming increasingly demanding in how they want to communicate with hotels.
No longer content with picking up the phone, or simply booking online, they want convenient access to ask questions before, during and after their stay. They want concierge services quite literally ‘on tap’. And they want you to be on the platforms they use daily, rather than download yet another app on their smartphones.
What is a Chatbot?
A chatbot, also known as a chatterbot, talkbot or artificial conversational entity, is a service that simulates the behaviour of a human within a conversational environment. They can be standalone services or integrate within other messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger. They normally allow the sending of messages via text/audio, along with more advanced structured messages that can include calls-to-action, scroll bars, links etc.
Chatbot’s wider use in hospitality is still evolving, but presently includes hotel booking, customer service enquiries, pre/post stay enquiries and general travel advice.
One of the most significant recent developments in chatbot technology was Facebook’s announcement of their Facebook Messenger chatbot platform in April 2016. With over 900 million members using it’s service on a monthly basis, there’s clear potential for a lucrative new booking channel and an opportunity to reduce the amount of questions that your reservations team deal with day-to-day.
The 4 big challenges for hotels in adopting chatbot technology are likely to centre around;
Simplifying your booking process so that it can be accommodated within a chatbot.
Providing a consistent booking experience on chatbots, compared with other channels.
Monitoring chatbots where there’s a human element – will require staff resources.
Managing guest expectations – with a fast messaging service comes expectation of fast turnaround on their requests through chatbots.
But where have chatbots come from? In our ‘Hospitality and Travel Chatbot Timeline’ below, we plot the key points in their rapid development over the last year;
The Hospitality and Travel Chatbot Timeline
May 2015: Marriott launches Mobile Requests service (via its App) that includes an ‘Ask Anything’ concierge service and ‘Anything Else’ function that allows guests to chat directly with hotel staff, 72 hours before their stay.
Throughout 2015: Chains like Starwood Hotels and independent hotels make increasing use of WhatsApp to allow guests to communicate directly with hotel staff pre, during and post stay.
This article originally appeared on www.hotelspeak.com on 19 July 2016.
Snapchat, WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, Viber, and many other messaging platforms dominate much of how the modern world communicates. Travel brands that haven’t jumped on those platforms yet are missing out on the future of how people prefer to communicate both at work and at leisure, around the globe.
Messaging apps are a place for connection. The one-size-fits-all booking search box is not a place for connection. Messaging is how you break out of the tyranny of the online travel search box, in use since 1995. Team messaging app Slack demonstrates just how penetrable messaging has become.
So far since launching, Slack has hosted the #nomads and #TNdistrict channels. The former is an invite-only 3,000 member strong group of (primarily solo) business travelers that “chat about life, work and travel.” The latter is a premium, subscription-based travel advice community for millennial-friendly black travelers.
These communities feel more intimate than tweeting at a brand or commenting on an Instagram photo. Messaging groups are focused and committed to their topics, and that is the mindset global travelers yearn for as traveling becomes more common in emerging economies where messaging is dominant and these populations seek advice on how to move about the world.
This article originally appeared on www.skift.com on 02 February 2016.