Future of Conversational UI

Conversation interfaces are becoming more important to every service and product. It is imperative that we rethink human–computer interactions and evolve them in order to make technology act and behave like people. After all, people are naturally good at having conversations. It is an inherent part of our human fiber. Computers have a difficult time with this. They can connect dots, but the actual back and forth conversation is an interaction that needs to be redesigned.

Brands need to be mindful and purposeful in designing and crafting products. They need to look at the full experience. How can you truly make something more enjoyable for a consumer? How are you solving a problem? It is so important to shift the paradigm in order to ensure the consumer is left feeling delighted rather than disappointed.

In testing out different chatbots at SXSW, I saw two very different experiences that left me feeling both ends of the spectrum: frustrated and thrilled. One high-end brand had a chatbot that was rather painful. The interactions were a series of options, rather than a free-form conversation box and if you tried to ask the bot anything outside of its set series of questions it gave you responses that didn’t make sense. Additionally, the wait time between talking points with myself and the bot was about five minutes long. Five minutes! Most people do not have the attention span for that. If it wasn’t for my desire to test different bots, I would’ve aborted the process and moved onto the next shiny thing.

The IBM Experience was a completely different story. They had a chatbot that was designed to determine your personality. It started by asking you to be as detailed and descriptive as possible so it could understand you better. After each question it would engage with you in a normal, friendly way. In fact, I’d say it was rather complimentary. It would say things such as “Wow, I wish I knew you in high school. You sound like you had a lot of fun, but then again I’ve never been to school.” At the end of the experience I was floored. I wanted him to be my best friend and maybe he will be one day through continuous machine learning.

As a brand you need to handle the conversation correctly. You need to ensure that you are looking to develop and create technology that behaves like a human does today. You need to ensure that you are building technology that is not only powered by data but is able to iteratively learn from data. This will allow computers to find insights into human behavior. It will allow the bot to fine-tune its communication style, which is key in any relationship. The future of technology requires the evolution of the human–computer communication paradigm. If that isn’t the forefront of what brands are looking to drive then their technology isn’t going to be as valuable.

Reach our full SXSW recap here.