IBM announced today that the company will be partnering with Slack to allow developers to build bots and other conversational interfaces. Both companies are working towards creating an updated ‘Slackbot’ that will be powered by Watson, as well as a Watson-enabled bot for IT and network operations.
We have heard of the rat race, the space race and all sorts of races pitting one against another. Now, welcome to the tech world’s very own “bot race.” Most of us have heard how the big tech companies – Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon and Google – are racing to get their bots in front of us. But the real reason behind this bot race is actually a race towards artificial intelligence.
In a tangential sort of way that led us to the virtual assistant race which has Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Echo, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Assistant competing with each other to get into our devices and homes.
Apart from the assistants that are on standby to help us at any time, the growth of messaging applications around the world and the increasing amount of time we all spend on messengers have now brought the bot race to our messengers. Facebook has been tirelessly working to get bots to work seamlessly with its Messenger app so it can chat with us, help businesses take care of customer support and take orders for them if necessary. The utility is, of course, there, and due to competition, that value proposition is continuously increasing.
Not one to be left behind, IBM has been steadily building its expertise in the bot world using Watson, which I strongly believe to be one of the dark horses in the AI world. IBM’s Analytics unit, which revolves around the Watson galaxy, is a stone’s throw away from hitting five billion dollars in quarterly revenues so, clearly, there must have been something there that made users flock around Watson.
Slack Intends to Adopt Watson Conversation for Slackbot: To further strengthen the Slack user experience, Slack intends to adopt Watson Conversation as a technology that helps power its Slackbot — the platform’s popular customer service bot. This integration will improve the accuracy and efficiency of trouble-shooting on the platform. Since the tool uses Watson machine learning, it can become more accurate over time. – IBM Press Release
Early this year IBM launched the Watson Conversation service to simplify the task of understanding and responding to customers, which then led them to create an option to launch a chat bot straight out of their Bluemix platform on short notice. Now, by tieing up with Slack, IBM is taking things a step further, which I believe will help the company to improve its offering and keep updating it in the future.
Slack is also an interesting choice because the application is more of a workplace chat service rather than a consumer-facing one such as WhatsApp or Snapchat. Intra-company communications is what the company specializes in and, if successful, the bot can help boost Slack’s performance and increase its value for its customers while acting as a huge brand builder and testing ground for IBM Watson.
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