What are chatbots (bots)? Bots are used as virtual assistants which help to chat and build relationships with users without needing to speak to another human. They’re in Skype, Facebook Messenger and here’s what you need to know.
What are chatbots?
Chatbots are computer assistants. They appear in your messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and Skype. It has been used for booking flights, hotels, ordering takeaway and much, much more.
The chatbots we’re talking about here are essentially virtual assistants, much like Alexa, Siri and Cortana, but they communicate via text rather than speech. Cortana and Google Assistant already do this, of course.
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The new chatbots are much like ELIZA and Eugene Goostman in that you can chat to them – by typing – and they will respond with sensible, intelligent answers. While mere chatbots exist (and have fooled many a human) the next generation will act more like personal assistants, doing everything from handling your Amazon returns to booking flights and ordering your lunch. They go beyond the capabilities of Siri and Google Now, although in many respects they are similar.
There are plenty of chat bots in Skype, including IFTTT, SkyScanner, Hipmunk and Stubhub.
Microsoft spent a considerable portion of its Build keynote last year talking about bots and how they would make your life easier. In one demo, a bot was used to order a pizza. It sounds simple, but it highlighted how much easier it was to give your order through a bot rather than firing up an app, navigating through menus and selecting options.
Chatbots: The future
It’s extremely likely the Apple is working hard behind the scenes to make Siri do this, because its capabilities and intelligence haven’t significantly improved since it launched. But more than anything, it needs to make Siri work universally rather than only kit designed for it.
Of course, bots will be limited by the platforms on which they run. So if you’re using Facebook M or Skype on an iPhone, it will be limited by what iOS can do, or what Apple will let it do. But Google is also busy building bots, and it will be fascinating to see what appears in both Android N and iOS 10.
Over the next few months we can expect bots to start appearing in the big messaging apps, and we can look forward to being able to order that lunchtime pizza in a snap.
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