The Growing Deployment of Chatbots for Novel Use Cases

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Not every business needs a chatbot for the usual tasks, but plenty of firms, charities and action groups are finding them useful for non-traditional uses. Here’s how a chatbot or AI can make a difference when it comes to marketing, politics, non-profits and other areas.

As people get used to bots, they are starting to notice that most of them look alike, “talk” alike and offer the same sort of services. But some bots are doing things differently or being used in novel ways to help make the world better or smarter.

A recent Guardian article highlights just one way that chatbots can be deployed, not for profit or time saving, but to help sway opinion, and prevent crime and abuse. A Seattle non-profit used the bots as part of fake adverts for sex workers to help highlight the plight that many girls faced from slavery to abuse and harm. Their efforts helped drive a 50% decline in online searches for keywords such as “teen escort.”

Many non-profits and charities use bots to help raise awareness, but to deflect business away from criminals and gangs seems like a worthy addition to the cause, and with online markets for drugs, sex and other activities growing, people are more likely to come across a bot and could be given pause for thought by some hard-hitting messages.

Talking of hard-hitting, meet the Joe Biden insult bot from The Daily Show that is doing the rounds on Twitter. Raising the profile of a stuffy old white dude to younger voters might be a hard trick to pull off, but this abusive feature seems to be gaining attention, which can then lead people to issues they are interested in or just to find out more about the candidates.

The medical benefits in the chatbot

There are plenty of traditional chatbots in the medical segment, helping triage patients, arrange appointments with specialists and even starting to diagnose and help patients with their conditions. One of the most interesting areas in Alzheimer’s Disease, which sees teams from around the world investing time and effort into assistants.

Clara is a new bot from Israel, undergoing testing that uses a specific set of questions, she analyses the answers using machine learning to test against a baseline for early indications of the disease. From Russia comes Endurance, a bot that provides a companion for seniors and patients living with the condition.

Related to that, bots are emerging that can help people chat to themselves, with that example coming from the Italian Ministry of Health. It helps collects the life of an Alzheimer sufferer and can then give them back useful information. That can help them cling on to knowledge and memories and improve their ability to hold conversations with friends and family. The project saw 10 times the usual engagement rate compared to average medical topics, and there are plenty more around the world helping.

Businesses can learn from the exploits of medical bots, and those in other areas, but in these cases helping retain memories or keeping people talking can provide something more valuable to those affected. And, when it comes to mental health issues, bots will be doing a lot of the heavy lifting due to overwhelming demand, and will be smart enough to discuss subjects in subtle ways that might put patients off talking to the usual health professionals.

Chatbots crossing the boundaries as support and gatekeepers

These ideas might spark a germ in any traditional business that could see it create new ways to talk to customers or clients (possibly without the insults). But, there are also many ways that traditional charities or organisations could see how bots work in business that they could use.

The move to “level 0” tech support and the use of bots there could be applied to many types of comapny where people need some basic help that currently takes up the valuable time of people in the business or organisation. Bots can provide simple advice to people with any sort of issue, with the bot able to escalate a complex problem or provide more advice where needed.

As bots move on from text-only services, to spoken bots or AI-powered digital video avatars, they also become more personal, allowing users to feel more engaged. This opens up new avenues for conversation and even debate that could help people gain in confidence and practice their public speaking, debating and other skills.

As bots get smarter, easier to manage and benefit from self-learning, there are many ways that they can be defined for non-traditional uses, from quiz machines to fill in the void from the recently collapsed HQ Trivia show or automating advice currently offered manually on services like TikTok.

Bots could also be used to act as gateways to services – rather than people randomly confirming their age through the usual captcha – they could ask smart questions that are related to the field or service that someone would be expected to know as an extra layer of security.

Better bots for the future

Whatever the business of aim of a charity, bots, AIs and avatars will play an increasingly important role in handling interactions beyond what we usually consider the norm for chatbots. And for any business looking for a spot of differentiation, a bot that does something different or presents its tasks in a new way will attract interest as the current generation of bots become increasingly homogenized.

With a quick look into that future, it won’t be long until AI digital girlfriends and boyfriends become a mainstream form of social entertainment. They will understand and “be into” the brands, bands, team and shows you like, able to discuss them as you watch sports or TV. They could help keep people happy in an increasingly disenfranchised world where social media and other online spaces become increasingly toxic. And also provide advice or keep a family together by sharing details across devices or services to provide an extended digital-family feel.

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