Conversational UI

What is a Conversational User Interface?

A conversational user interface (CUI) is essentially a user interface designed for computers in order to imitate a conversation with a human. This sort of interface allows for people to “communicate” with a computer in their natural language instead of through syntax-specific commands.

Prior to conversational user interfaces, graphical user interfaces (GUIs) were used in order to translate an action into a format the computer would understand by presenting the user with a graphical interface he can interact with using a keyboard and a mouse, such as pressing on a “return” icon to go back to the previous page.

When looking back at the B.C. era (a.k.a before chatbots), clients in a store would be assisted by a shop assistant, who used pre-defined scripts to respond to queries. Moving into the A.C. era (after chatbots entered the market), chatbots were creating conversations through websites and voice assistants in a similar manner shop assistants used to.

Conversational user interface has therefore emerged as a tool for organizations to efficiently produce relevant information to customers in a cost effective way. 

In order to achieve this paradigm shift, the conversational user interface uses natural language processing (NLP) and natural language understanding (NLU) to understand the ambiguities of the natural human language and craft a meaningful response. 

While many interface brands exist to date, the two overriding categories within this arena are: voice assistants and chatbots.

On the voice assistant front 

Companies such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon have introduced voice assistants and are gradually making them more intelligent by the day. Ok Google from Google, Hey Cortana by Microsoft or Hey Siri from Apple are all classic examples of voice assistants responding to a user’s command to activate the device. Hyro’s virtual assistant is being utilized within the real estate arena to converse with prospects in order to book tours, share property prices and more.

On the chatbot front

‍Facebook M is one of the classic examples of a known chatbot that allows for real time communication.

Other human-assisted chatbots are also common and allow users to perform several tasks, such as transferring money or purchasing an item. Slack’s chatbot (slackbot) is a great example of a human-assisted chatbot that assists users in scheduling meetings, taking lunch orders and more. Nevertheless, adopting a chatbot can be risky and cause rigid conversational experiences when developing them in-house. 

[NOTE: If you want to learn the best practices for integrating enterprise-grade conversational user interfaces within your organization, check out this guide.]

Why are organizations betting on Conversational UI?‍

Conversational user interfaces are platform-agnostic, promoting a frictionless experience for users across multiple platforms such as desktop, smartphone and smartwatch.  

This is a key aspect of conversational user interfaces that allures companies in adopting them within their operations as they strive to provide the most seamless experience for their users.  

Take KLM for example. The international airline allows users to get their boarding passes, flight status and other details through their Facebook Messenger chatbot. After booking their flight on the KLM website, they can then opt to receive all this personalized information on their Facebook account. This allows the airline to seamlessly keep in touch with their users on their platform of choice in a very social manner. 

The future of conversational interfaces 

Conversational user interfaces are definitely evolving. Looking ahead, language and reasoning are going to be combined with machine learning to establish a new set of conversational user interfaces that are more capable of understanding user wants and needs.

Hyro’s conversational user interfaces have been using machine learning bolstered with knowledge graphs to create an enhanced version that understands a multitude of user nuances and better mimics the human language: an adaptive communications platform.

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