Friday, August 16, 2013

Virtual Agents Becoming a Household Name!

Photo Credit: http://www.post-gazette.com
Virtual Agents have been getting quite a lot of press lately. From Siri to Watson, and all of their competitors, Virtual Agents are becoming a household name. Outside the typical support and sales use, Virtual Agents can be advantageous anywhere!

Just a short while ago I wrote a blog about the many benefits of a Virtual Agent implementation at the Powerball Headquarters in Iowa. Click here for the full blog to “Virtual Assistants Aiding Lottery Officials.” It got me thinking of all the other ways Virtual Agents can be used, more than just for online customer support and/or sales. 

One of my colleagues shared with me an article from engadget.com called “Negobot: a Virtual Chat Agent Engineered to Trap Pedophiles.” In short, engineers from the University of Deusto created a Virtual Agent that replicates a child’s profile and interacts with people to try and identify pedophiles. The Virtual Agent starts with a neutral stance and depending on the interest shown by the individual on the other end, Negobot (the virtual chatbot) will enhance its neutral stance to trap the pedophile into giving himself/herself up. They are still working out the linguistic capabilities but once this virtual chat agent is perfected, I’m sure many agencies will be utilizing this tool to hone in on pedophiles. Who would have thought a Virtual Agent could turn into a private investigator. You never know, maybe the next place of employment for Virtual Agents is in the FBI. 

Another way to utilize a Virtual Agent is at the DMV. Waiting in line for sometimes hours, just to find out an answer to a quick question can be frustrating.  Or waiting all that time to find out you are missing one piece of paper and are not able to do what you came to do. A self-service kiosk for FAQ’s and simple actions such as renewing your license could cut the wait down at the DMV significantly. Even having a Virtual Agent implemented on the DMV’s website could help people prepare for what to bring with them, so they don’t waste their time waiting in line just to find out they forgot to bring proof of insurance.  

An additional use of a Virtual Agent can be in the self-driving Google cars. The technology has already been developed that allows cars to virtually drive themselves. Google is mastering this craft, and a Virtual Agent would be valuable to implement in these cars because the car will be able to, not only drive itself, but interact with the passengers as well.  Does anyone remember the TV series or movie, Knight Rider? KITT was a highly advanced artificial intelligence that was installed into an automobile. KITT is basically like a Virtual Agent that also utilizes speech recognition software. All you have to do is ask a question and KITT would come back with an answer to that question. Imagine Apple’s Siri but instead of talking to your phone you talk to your car. I found this really great video giving an example of a KITT replica. Click here to watch it. 

KITT is a fictional character made up for entertainment purposes in the 80’s, but they hit on something big. Now that technology has matured, artificial intelligence and voice recognition software have advanced so much that soon, it will become the norm to have self-driving cars that have advanced technology embedded to answer your every question and/or command.  

I previously talked about Virtual Agents invading the video game world as well. Click here to view the blog “Throwback Thursday: Virtual Agents integrating with Video Games?” Currently, video games are utilizing the presence of an Artificial Intelligence to accomplish multiple tasks. A.I.’s are there for people to have someone to play with when they are by themselves (virtual buddy) and even to gather knowledge to become smarter (as do our Virtual Agents, the more they are used, the smarter they get).  Now imagine a Virtual Agent always present in a video game; gamers would be able to have conversations or get help to achieve that next level they've been trying so hard to get to. 

These are just a few examples of alternative ways Virtual Agents can be used outside of the typical support or sales scenarios. Although Virtual Agents are great for support and sales. One day, Virtual Agents will be implemented everywhere, helping consumers one question at a time.

Have a great week!