At a time when digital communication was racing to its peak, most of our generation had already picked up texting to be the dominant form of communicating. We were the Whatsapp and Messenger generation of the world who bowed down to the chat form of conversation, which was finally made easier – owing to years of practice and evolution of the form – one that had matured from pressing a key four times to get an alphabet on the screen to touching and swiping alphabets together or simply enabling voice-recognition keyboards on our phones, that are increasingly becoming ‘smarter’.It seemed only natural then, that in 2016, when the first flair of e-commerce chatbots arrived, you could text them your orders. The convenience of chat vs tap on conventional applications had been already stressed over and we moved a step closer to how humans naturally communicate to each other. We were trying to simplify e-commerce and go back to the time where you told a shopkeeper what you wanted and got it rather than tapping through a million options, selection processes, payments etc – only this time, we had to leverage technology for reducing the effort and not distributing it over a complicated online process. Today’s e-commerce, thus, had to be about recreating the same age-old shopping experience online, through the power of artificial intelligence.
This is when you met Niki, a conversational bot that gave way to users to actually talk to her to get things done. Users could simply text Niki their needs and Niki would understand the task at hand to get it done, hassle-free for the human. This helped removing the tiresome tapping and reducing the time & effort humans spent on e-commerce by more than half.
This development also proved to be a game-changer in cases where users lacked the understanding of options given by conventional tap-based applications. While these traditional applications assumed their users to be able to understand the complexity of their processes, Niki or other e-commerce chatbots did not require the user to be well-versed with online terminology or processes – they simply followed instructions and proved to be a virtual friend, indeed.Even though, chatbots like Niki revolutionised the way online shopping was done, the bigger dream had always been to enable people across the world to obtain maximum benefits by putting in the least amount of effort and at the same time, moving to an even simpler way of transacting online, through voice-command.
From texting to talking
Yes, it’s 2018 and even though texting has literally become child’s play, it is still unnatural how we communicate more using the written form of the word. After all, we’ve been muttering and grunting at each other for at least 100,000 years, but writing things down for only 5,000 of them. So unanimously, if we take a vote, the population of the world in its entirety and not just the Whatsapp & Messenger generation of the world, it is likely that most of us would prefer developing technology in a way that’s welcoming; technology that accepts the variety that human beings come in, technology that is meant to cater to the different ethnicities, skills, languages across globe and then prove itself to be useful to all.
This is exactly where your friend and India’s homegrown chatbot, Niki comes into picture. With its voice-recognition update, Niki aims to bridge the gap between users and complexity of technology. It aims to simplify online shopping in a way that is accessible to all kinds of users and not just the privileged of the world. It still dreams of a day when every person on the planet will be able to leverage technology with the same ease and comfort as any other.
To take a leap forward in this direction, Niki is now ready to talk to humans. It is ready to comprehend voice, not just in English but in multiple Indian languages starting from Hindi. The new update, which is estimated to be rolled out fully by the end of 2018, features voice-support, where users can simply instruct Niki to do chores, in their own language. Imagine – no more complicated conversations, no more crooked fingers, no more going technology’s way for it to be useful. Now, conversations will flow. Humans will be able to instruct technology to get things done.
For a country like India, where despite a growing internet penetration rate, consumption of online services remains flat due to lack of accessibility, this will be a defining stage. Users across ethnicity, locations and languages will be simply able to talk to Niki in their native language and do transactions online in an even simpler way.
While, voice-controlled bots like Alexa and Siri positioned as the next leap forward for conversational commerce, their internal data shows that people still prefer to use a chat interface for most transactions while they’re on the move. Niki’s voice command integration then would be needed as an alternative to take on home assistants like Google Home, Alexa, and Apple’s upcoming device, HomePod.
Voice has always been our most human, and most natural interface – so why lose it to technology? It seems that soon, unnecessary typing and tapping will be a memory of the distant past. You can have the world at your command, literally and all you have to do in the most cliche phrase of the universe, is ask, in your own sweet words.