Lots of what passes for an AI revolution is actually a change in interaction model, enabled by machine learning that has gotten "good enough" to suggest a single answer to a query.
This is an important shift. As compute becomes smaller and cheaper, it is infecting everyday objects that we don't think of as "computers". In the future, everything will be a little smart. Conversational UI will be an important tool for interacting with these smart things, because many will be too small to have screens.
- Works anywhere — scales from screenless devices to mobile to Desktop.
- Conversations are an anthropomorphic way to interact with computers.
- Conversational UI can seamlessly blend interactions between people and artificial intelligence agents.
- Messages, conversations and notifications have heavy conceptual overlap.
- Search, conversations, notifications, messages and cards — these things have a strong overlap in terms of jobs and features.
- This is why WeChat is able to expand into a platform.
Risks and Challenges
- The rule of thumb for machine learning is that 80% success rates are easy, but the next 10%-15% gain is hard.
- Failure hurts. How often are you quietly exasperated by Siri? When users feel punished by failure, they stop exploring and stick to the beaten path.
- Where AI falls short, careful UI can patch up the differences. This is where design patterns come in. WeChat does this very well, with structured responses.
- The Cooperative Principle: we trust that others we converse with are being cooperative, and will contribute usefully to the conversation. Avoid breaking this deal at all costs.
- Be As Smart as A Puppy. If the computer is dumb, make it charming.
- Keep conversations structured. If you can't have 100% accuracy, narrow the problem space with careful UI design.
- The Jack Principles of conversational UI
- Augmented conversations — chatbots can seamlessly switch between bot and human. This is already a thing on WeChat.
- When voice assistants get good enough, every business will have a programmable API, because every business has a phone.
- What happens when we have many of these bots, conversing with each other?
- 2015 Ben Evans: The State of Messaging
- 2015 Interconnected: Conversational UIs
- 2015 Interconnected: More on Conversational UIs
- 2015 Alistapart on Conversational UI
- 2015 Alistapart Designing for Conversational UI
- 2015 Futures of text
- 2015 Wired: The future of UI design? Old-school text message
- 2014 Chinese mobile app trends. The future of the web is here, it's just not evenly distributed.
- 2003 Matt Webb on Conversational UI