The biggest trends of SXSW Interactive: AI and Chatbots

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We’re in the midst of SXSW Interactive here in Austin, Texas. What’s the hot topic around Interactive? AI and chatbots. With that mind, I decided to attend the “Building B2B Bots” session hosted by Dharmesh Shah, Founder and CTO HubSpot inbound marketing. The digital marketing whiz and noted startup angel investor led the conversation about bots and how they will affect how we’ll do business in the near future.

Why is there buzz surrounding chatbots? Decades ago businesses started building websites, now they will start building bots. Shah explained, “What 1997 was to Internet and browsers, 2017 is to bots.” The shortest time between a customer question and an answer will be a bot. Every website is trying to get customers and answer questions from a business perspective, and this can complement search for websites.

According to Shah, there are two reasons chatbots have changed technology recently:

  • Advances in AI and machine learning have made natural language recognition much better. In present day, there are bots with some semblance of Natural Language Understanding.
  • Messaging is taking off, and it’s not just consumer phenomenon. Think about in your current job using messaging apps such as Slack, Facebook Workplace, etc (The majority of the room raised their hands when asked if they use these). We as professional workers are spending more time on messaging apps to do work. And since people are already used to interacting with people, it’s not different having to interact with software.

Chatbots gave us a new interaction model with the conversation. Well done mobile apps embrace the constraints, but well done bots embrace the conversation.

How can you get started with chatbots? According to Shaw, try some bots and get a feel for where things are headed. In case you’re not familiar, we offer Watson Conversation, where you can build a chatbot in 10 minutes. Check out Watson Conversation here.

Hubspot Academy also has a cool Watson plugin. Try it out here.

Follow @MaryReisert, or you can always catch her at @IBMWatson.

Build your own bot with Watson.


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