The chatbots in our future

Ian Petticrew / Creative Commons

Led by China, tech companies are pushing into a voice-and-chat future in which we will rarely get a human on the phone for our banking or shopping question. And when we do, our egos will be massaged by emotionally intelligent bots that will advise call center reps how to handle our complaints.

WeChat, a wildly popular mobile app made by Tencent, is part of the daily lives of an estimated hundreds of millions Chinese. By comparison, talking apps, many built on machine-learning platforms, are only beginning to penetrate working and playing lives in the West.

Why it matters: Robotic chat is coming, and it may be fast — we will increasingly buy our stuff, and conduct our personal and work lives, through voice-command apps and artificial intelligence-trained chatbots. What we may not have expected is the degree to which non-human, intelligent bots will look over our shoulder and offer up helpful suggestions while we are at work.