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AI & HE: The Rise Of The Robots

Posted on Oct 26, 2016
AI & HE: The Rise Of The Robots

Since Mark Zuckerberg gave the rallying endorsement of Facebook Messenger chatbots in April this year, we’ve seen an acceleration in just how this technology will impact on the communications landscape. If Facebook, and its 1.7 billion footprint, are serious about something, we can’t ignore it. And at the same time, we’re contending with the voices of Alexa, Siri, Watson, Cortana and others. Google and Apple continue to eat into our lives – predicting the things we want, the places we’re going and the friends we need to contact. Artificial Intelligence is about to get a lot more, well, intelligent. So, what exactly is going on with the rise of chatbots. How do we feel about it? And, more importantly, what are we going to do about it? Here’s a taste of the story so far – from airlines to universities.




The next big move in KLM’s digital world has been to launch its own Messenger driven chatbot. So rather than just get text messages, emails, or even tweets, passengers can now log on and chat immediately to get help about their flights. Of course this conversation can be intelligently automated from KLM’s side.


Domino’s are usually early to the digital innovation party, and they wasted no time with this one, serving up ‘Dom’ the chatbot assistant to take automated orders. We Are Social and Talkie helped create the Facebook Messenger enabled ‘bot’, allowing pizza-lovers to order a slice of the action. Head of Digital at Domino’s, Nick Dutch, commented ‘We’re delighted to allow our customers to order direct from Messenger – with 1bn monthly active people using Messenger each month – it’s the obvious choice for Domino’s. We want to make ordering our freshly handmade pizza as easy as possible so we’re always on the look-out for new ways in which we can do this. Just message pizza – or send an emoji. It really couldn’t be easier. Read more via The Drum’s article by clicking here.


And sticking with food, it’s worth digging into what Taco Bell served up recently. By creating the TacoBot, workers could order their favourite tacos straight to their desks, all from within the Slack application they were working in. Whilst in beta mode the $40,000 investment is claimed to have generated the equivalent of $10m in advertising value. Check out a great article on it here. Proof that chatbots are cooking innovation up outside of Facebook Messenger.


So how are universities responding to developments? Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, usually show their hand early. This time they’ve done it with typical creativity, launching their own ‘Deakin Explorer Bot’ integrating their course finder with Facebook Messenger. But Deakin don’t do ordinary messenger apps. They create drama. It’s all about standing out. And so we saw investment in film-trailer style video content to launch their bot on the world. They even created its own Facebook identity and page. Well, it’s meant to be human after all! Read more about it here.


Georgia State University are also giving us a taste of the future via their panther mascot namesake. Pounce might suggest a future in which we are getting interrupted by messenger bots but for now it all seems to be a welcome approach. The claim is that in the first month since the mid-April launch, Pounce exchanged nearly 50,000 texts with more than 3,000 admitted students to help them enroll at Georgia State. In all of these conversations, Pounce routed less than 1 percent of student messages to Georgia State staff for questions requiring a human touch. You can read more here.


And the robots are coming to teaching and learning too. Education giant Pearson has partnered with IBM and its own AI genius Watson to develop one-on-one, online course tutoring, leaving the text books well and truly behind. So should it be Professor Watson now? Check out the Bloomberg story and make your own mind up.


From airlines to fast food, and from Australian to US universities, there’s a lot more out there to explore. And we’ll be doing just that at our next Future Index Academy session on the 1st December. From the heart of MediaCityUK in Manchester, we’ll be looking at how the chatbots are going to impact on Higher Education in the future. And with help from the experts at SMILE we’ll be hacking ideas on how we can lead the way. SMILE actually have their own chatbot in action on their website – go have a word with Amy if you don’t believe us. We’ll also be looking at many other emerging trends, from YouTubers (getting louder in the HE landscape) to Snapcodes. From Instagram Stories to live broadcasts. It promises to be fun too so check out how you can be involved at or email

Places are limited so please contact us early. Or get your robot to do it?

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