Conversational platforms for research fall into three tiers.
1. Messaging interfaces
These research tools that mimic the WhatsApp / WeChat / Messenger format, and sometimes embed directly into these apps. Question formats are typically structured (pick from a list of options), free-text or media upload.
Machine learning helps to analyse the content of unstructured inputs (words, pictures, videos), but they’re not ‘intelligent’ – they don’t respond on-the-fly. Most research in a messaging format is really a pre-programmed survey or a discussions with lots of branching logic.
The next step up is chatbots – software that can respond to inputs and adapt its responses more intelligently.
Actually, the distinction between level 1 and 2 is not so clean – most messaging research apps have a mix of both of these. Where there is more training data – for example in continuous studies on the same topic – the bots re getting cleverer and able to adapt better.
3. Voice assistants for research
These use the same underlying machine learning models as chatbots – but need an additional AI layer to process the voice inputs and convert them to text.
Voice assistants for research use the Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana or Google Home platforms.