In our digital age, it might be hard to keep up with all the advances in technology. So if you don’t know what a “chatbot” is, you’re probably not alone. Let’s begin with defining that term. Essentially, a chatbot is simply a type of computer program that engages in conversation with people, either through text messages or audibly. Popular chatbots include IBM’s Watson, LiveChat, and LivePerson, to name just a few. But even if you don’t own one of these devices, you have probably interacted with a chatbot without even knowing it. Many companies currently implement this technology, particularly for information gathering tasks or customer service purposes.
Given the global nature of our modern world, as well as the fact that chatbots are already a commonly used form of artificial intelligence, it will probably come as no surprise that one of the most sought-after products in this field is the multilingual chatbot. The technology is still in its infancy, and it’s easy to understand why. Programming a chatbot with the capability of simultaneously translating language is extremely complicated and time-consuming. There are rare examples of multilingual chatbots on the market today – such as Language I/O® Chat, a product designed to be a customer support tool – but they are few and far between. However, the day will certainly come when a variety of multilingual chatbots are available to businesses. After all, there are several situations where these programs would be useful.
But today, more often than not, those companies that would benefit the most from multilingual bots are instead opting to build separate bots for different languages. This makes sense considering the complexity of creating a multilingual chatbot. But whether you own a business that would greatly benefit from this type of program or not, it’s important to remember that what we’re really talking about is machine translation. As much as some of us might like to believe that artificial intelligence is capable of high quality, simultaneous translation of multiple languages, there are many challenges to overcome before that can be achieved – challenges such as:
• Differences in word usage and meaning between different regions – even if they speak the same language
• Cultural sensitivities need to be understood and considered to ensure that you don’t alienate or offend your users
• Before translation can take place, your multilingual bot must have the ability to understand what language a user is speaking, so it should include a language detection tool – but this type of tool will only work if you already have a multi-language database
• Regional accents can vary wildly, so it would be best to implement several rather than to limit yourself (and your target audience) to a single one
And these are just a few of the issues faced by companies embarking on the task of creating their own multilingual chatbot tools.
Although the task is incredibly daunting, there are no doubt companies that would benefit enough from a multilingual chatbot so that it would make it worth the time and effort to actually try to develop one. But in the meantime – certainly at least until the technology has advanced far enough to meet current needs – let’s pause to remember one important fact: machine translation is no match for the high-quality translation services provided by a trained, experienced linguist. The future of the Internet could very well involve a variety of multilingual chatbot tools, but we’re not there yet. If you’re attempting to expand your business to reach a global audience in 2018, the most feasible way to do that might very well be the old-fashioned way: with translation services provided by an actual person.
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