Bring a bot into your life

Chatbots are rarely out of the news these days, and we covered a little introduction of the topic not so long ago: whether pretending to be women who want a fling or copying the sick rhetoric of Donald Trump’s rants, or, due to programming limitations, turning virtual teenagers into neo-Nazis. But while newsworthy, there are other kinds of chatbots out there with more immediate uses and that can help us order a taxi, a pizza, or reserve a theater ticket or table in a restaurant, as well as many others.

Just what is a bot? Basically, it refers to automating something that we would normally do ourselves but that can be carried out through a vocalized request. Normally, we would ask a computer to do something through some kind of messaging service that would require inputting data: name, type of payment, etc. Slack has been using bots for some tasks for a while now, and some bots in Kik can tell you if your makeup is right or you’re dressed fashionably. Twitter uses them for some tasks, such as ordering a pizza, or receiving data about earthquakes as they happen.

A bot store, along the lines of the app store, is about to be opened where the public can make their own bots. But Kik isn’t the only firm to jump on the bandwagon: Botlist has opened its own store, while Telegram has launched an API with different tools to help develop bots. Microsoft is also talking about robots with conversational skills. Meanwhile, Facebook says that a large part of the next F8, its developer conference, will be dedicated to bots. We have jokes about bots, bots to order and pay for tacos from Taco Bell, as well as assistants in makeup stores, or bots to help organize meetings, and eventually, even bots with their own personality.

The idea of using bots as an interface actually dates back some time. Their sudden popularity comes from advances in machine learning and that companies large and small are showing an interest in them. People are starting to tire of apps, and are looking for something new: there is talk of bots merging with apps, so we can talk to them.

It looks like we are entering the bot age and will soon be using them for a wide range of tasks. In short, relatively simple developments with few entry barriers and friendly interfaces. So start thinking about what use they could be put to in your company…


(En español, aquí)