Artificial Intelligence Digital Transformation Technology and Innovation

Are chatbots and voicebots our future ?

Guillaume PAGE
Written by Guillaume PAGE

We are living a new digital era! An important change is taking place behind the scenes. As important as in 2008, when Steve Jobs launched the App Store and the creation of a new ecosystem. After websites and mobile apps, will the next digital operating system be the bots (chatbots/ voicebots)? Gartner predicts that, within 4 years, we will speak more to the voicebots than our spouse.

What are chatbots? Why their sudden rise? Will voicebots take the leads?


What is a chatbot ?

A chatbot is a software, dedicated to discuss (mainly in text form) with people thanks to artificial intelligence. Instead of browsing a website, you will converse in future with bots. They are implemented mainly in messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, Kik, Telegram, WeChat, Skype, Slack, …

They may have multiple functions for weather, grocery, news, personal finance, scheduling and will impact many industries like E-Commerce, banking, tourism, etc…  Companies expect that chatbots will automate the relationship with their customers. On one hand they will help businesses to personalize the relationship with their customers, to offer 24/7 services, to save costs by taking over selling or customer service activities, to collect more datas on their customers and to propose more customized ads. On the other hand, customers will benefit from a faster and better experience without the need to download apps, having real-time answers, on any devices.


Why the sudden rise of chatbots ?

The existence of chatbots is not new. For instance, WeChat offered them for a few years. However, Giant tech companies invested recently massively in chatbots.

In the last 10 months, more than 170 million dollars have been invested in chatbots. Slack announced that they will dedicate 80 million dollars to fund the development of bots. Amazon plans to invest 100 million dollars. Facebook acquired (2015), Microsoft took over Wand Labs (2016), Google acquired API.AI, etc…

Even if technology brought a big improvement in the field of artificial intelligence, natural language understanding, big data, …it does not only explain the hype for chatbots. Here are some reasons:

  • Mobile apps is becoming a saturated market

65% of users download no new apps in a month. According to a study released by Forrester last year, users spend more than 80% of their time on five apps. With 1.2 million apps proposed by the Apple Store, it is getting very difficult to attract users’ attention.

  • Messaging platforms are booming

Since 2015 people use more messaging platforms than social networks (BI Intelligence). According to a study from Vanksen, in 2016 four downloaded apps out of five were messaging platforms apps (Messenger, Snapchat, WhatsApp and Skype). Each user spends every day 50 minutes in average on these apps.

  • Facebook boosts the market of chatbots

In April 2016, Facebook announced the launch of chatbots on their platform Messenger, opening up a market of 900 million users. As a result, 33 000 chatbots have been developed in 8 months by their community of developers.

Chatbots could become new growth drivers for Facebook to become a universal point of contact on mobile for users and corporates, in order to chat, order, pay and organize customer service.


Chatbots versus Voicebots?

According to Gartner, “By 2020, 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen”, thanks to Voicebots. They are a new audio-centric technology. Therefore, you will not need hands or eyes for browsing anymore, but vocal interactions.

Voicebots and chatbots are different because they rely on separated environments and technologies. If chatbots use smartphones, voicebots require specific hardwares that most of people don’t have yet, for example to capture the sound. Moreover, voicebots require more technologies like biometrical identification, speech recognition, natural-language processing, voice synthesis, conversational artificial intelligence,…

Giant tech companies already started to set-up on this new market. The competitive landscape is slightly different from chatbots. At the moment, Amazon’s Echo leads the competition, followed by Apple Siri and Google Home. Lately, Samsung and Baidu started to invest in this market.

According to a note by investment firm Mizuho, Amazon could expect 11 billion dollars revenue from this new activity by 2020 and 41 million Echo devices sold. Therefore, the priority will be to create a new community of developers in the coming months/ years. That’s why, the company founded the Alexa Champions Program, which recognizes the most engaged developers and contributors in its community. It gathers around 20 companies. Among them, the French company, which invented a framework to quickly create voice assistants and an analytics tool.



“Roughly every ten years, a new paradigm comes along that changes the way we interact with computers…” said Dag Kittlaus, CEO ViV. The arrival of chatbots and voicebots will have major impacts on E-commerce, starting with the use of mobile apps. Brands will be more present in our daily life.

Chatbots and voicebots are an incredible opportunity for Amazon and Facebook, to counter Google and Apple in their mobile dominance. Will it be enough to reshuffle the cards?

About the author

Guillaume PAGE

Guillaume PAGE