"We’ve long dreamed of talking computers," noted Barry Briggs, consultant and former CTO for Microsoft, where he helped lead the company’s transition to the cloud and is generally known as a pioneer in the computing industry. What Briggs is referring to is advent of talking devices and conversational interfaces which are just now beginning to reshape how we use computers, and more importantly how we interact with data.
Formerly, according to Briggs, talking computers (such as ELIZA) were more or less a trick. "After a time, because of the program’s simplicity, the novelty wears off," he said.
However, things are advancing so fast that conversational Star Trek style computer and device interaction is foreshadowing a transformative societal shift. Briggs said in January 2014, "The limitations are really gone. We have built software for decades now thinking about what are the limitations that the hardware or the amount of storage for the network place upon us. Those limitations don't exist anymore."
Fast forward to today Briggs writes:
"Because of the nearly limitless computing and storage capacity in the cloud, and because of great advances in AI, machine learning, speech recognition, and data storage and analytics, Weizenbaum’s primitive ELIZA program has evolved into something far more magical and useful," says Briggs. "Perhaps, even, we’re at the advent of the next big shift in computing, fueled by artificial intelligence and built around a behavior that is most natural to humans: conversations."
He wonders, "Can bots become the new UI?"
"For business, the transformation of conversational computing is just beginning. As bots are connected to corporate databases, for example, they’ll simplify tasks from onsite repairs to scheduling meetings into simple conversational actions like, “What parts do I need to fix this?” or “What time is Customer X available next Monday?”
Eventually, by taking advantage of the massive data storage and mining capabilities available in the cloud, bots will get to know you, providing intelligent suggestions like, “While you’re on site with the customer, I’d suggest examining the engine gearbox, I’m seeing some early failures in other installs,” and learning from previous experiences: “Did the fix I suggested last time help?”
We’ve come a long way from Weizenbaum’s ELIZA. What started as a bit of sleight-of-hand programming has turned into an entirely new, intuitive and efficient way of interacting with computers. Conversational bots built on cloud-based artificial intelligence enable new frontiers in customer intimacy, simplify access to information, and help businesses and consumers make more informed decisions – quicker."