Interview with Marius Försch on chatbots and digital assistants

by | 31 May 2017 | [at] News

Are chatbots and digital assistants a megatrend or just a flash in the pan? What needs to be considered during implementation? Which fields of application already exist today and what does the future development look like? These and many other questions were the focus of the Innovation Summit on 18 May in the Munich office of Alexander Thamm GmbH. This time, our Data Scientist Marius from Berlin was there to give a first version of his presentation on the topic. Chatbots and Digital assistants presented. This lecture will also be presented at the upcoming TDWI conference from 26 to 28 June 2017 in Munich. Since the topic caused exciting discussions and conversations internally, we are already looking forward to being able to present this lecture to a larger audience. For a small foretaste of this, we have conducted an interview with Marius.

Thank you very much for your exciting lecture. Chatbots, digital assistants, AI assistants. At the moment, so many different terms are used for what is supposed to be the same thing. What is the correct term?

Marius Försch: There is probably no correct term. Chatbots commonly refer to the somewhat "dumber assistants" in Facebook or Slack, while digital assistants and AI assistants are the smart big brothers that cover a wider range of functions and Artificial intelligence use. However, since chatbots in messaging apps must ultimately also have a certain intelligence, the discussion about the correct term seems a little academic. To make life easier for us, we can speak consistently of chatbots. That also goes over more quickly.

When and how did you become aware of the topic of chatbots and digital assistants?

Marius Försch: I came across the topic about a year ago rather by chance in a project. Before that, I already knew that Apple & Co. Chatbots as a strategically important area of business, but the Practical relevance for the masses to companies I had underestimated. In the meantime, I know so many valuable uses for digital assistants that I am no longer surprised by the hype and the number of projects that have been started.

What is the big fascination behind this topic for you?

Marius Försch: The topic is so multifaceted and by no means purely technical. I'm also fascinated by artificial intelligence and the possibilities it will open up in the future. The possibilities are far from exhausted.

What are the great opportunities and what are the risks of chatbots and digital assistants?

Marius Försch: Customers must recognise the benefits of digital assistants for themselves. When they do, chatbots and digital assistants offer a new way to get in touch with customers and create a personalised user experience to offer. However, proper expectation management on the part of companies is also important. Chatbots are not all-rounders and customers who expect that will be disappointed very quickly. However, if it becomes clear what the assistant can and cannot do, customers will quickly become enthusiastic.

Do you think in the future we will communicate with computers and machines exclusively in this way?

Marius Försch: Yes and no. I believe that the interface between humans and machines will continue to change and that the role of humans will fundamentally become more passive. Digital assistantsThe first step in this direction is language understanding. In the future, even more information will be gleaned from the user's context. With improved artificial intelligence, assistants will increasingly be active in the background. There will still be some kind of communication, but not purely based on speech.

Your spontaneous assessment: What percentage of the potential of chatbots and digital assistants has already been achieved?

Marius Försch: The question is very difficult to answer. A lot is already possible today. However, if you take the super-intelligent digital assistant with artificial intelligence that surpasses humans as a benchmark, we are not very far yet. Maybe 5 per cent?

Finally, a more abstract question: to what extent do you think films like Her or even Terminator could already address this issue in a forward-looking way?

Marius Försch: Films about artificial intelligence very often have a dystopian character at the moment. I'm thinking in particular of the film Ex Machina. I think the fear that these assistants will one day become so powerful that they take over humanity is extremely unrealistic. We shouldn't worry too much about that at the moment, but instead clearly emphasise the advantages. Digital assistants will change our Simplify everyday life considerably and the greatest danger at present is that their (as yet) immature intelligence will annoy us.

Marius Försch
© Marius Försch

We thank Marius for taking the time to talk to us about chatbots and digital assistants. Do you have questions for Marius about chatbots? Send a message to For more exciting insights on the topic of Data Science, you can also register for our Data Science Navigator.

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