Whatever Floats Your Bot: My Favourite Messenger Chatbots 2016/17

Image credit: Anne Helmond (CC)

Wondering about real-life applications of successful Messenger bots? Here are some of the season’s favourites.

Chat here: https://www.messenger.com/t/205232923192657/

This little bot acts more like a friend than a therapist. Throughout the day, Joy will send you check-ins and ask you questions about what you are experiencing. She will then interpret your mood and provide appropriate responses.

Joy is a sort of ELIZA of the new millennium. At the moment, she can only track your weekly mood and give advice. She is not too big on replies yet, but its developers are working on its continuous improvement and great things seem to await this bot.

With an expected 20% of adults in the pipeline to experience a psychological illness this year, the news are definitely welcome.

Chat here: https://www.messenger.com/t/swell.bot/

Swelly’s premise is so simple it’s a bit of an eyebrow raiser, but it works: Have a binary decision to make (a la dreadful hot-or-not)? Send it to the friendly whale and let the internet choose.

The chatbot uses humor to keep the users engaged and takes fully advantage of the social network built around it, which has grown exponentially since the little bot was released. The reason why I picked Swelly (not that others haven’t too, of course) is because the bot itself is rather simple — no real memory required, no advanced processing of any kind. Yet, it was an instant hit when it came out. Swelly shows the radical changes these interfaces can bring to the table — and how fast they can be.

Chat here: https://www.messenger.com/t/kayak/

Kayak does a pretty nice job online, but now you can also use their services (them being booking hotels and flights and renting cars) via Messenger.

For such advanced functionality, the bot has a surprisingly smooth flow. You don’t need to be super precise in regards to search terms, as the guided conversation offers not only standard results (from where, to where, when) but a few pieces of information here and there (the average for a ticket, for example, even before you input the dates). The way the suggestions are shown is straightforward and easy to understand, and the tone of the bot seems just right. Effective and to the point.

Chat here: https://www.messenger.com/t/charitywater/

Yeshi uses the full spectrum of bot capabilities to create an emotional experience around the sadly widespread lack of access to potable water. Geolocation, storytelling and media sharing connect the user with this embodied young girl from Ethiopia, who has to walk 2,5 miles each day to find water.

I particularly like Yeshi because it effectively embraces the capabilities of a conversational interface and makes one of the best possible uses I have seen for it. You are actually chatting with someone, and the results are encouraging. Charity:Water and Lokai expect to build 100 new water wells in Ethiopia this year.

Chat here: https://www.messenger.com/t/hiponcho/

Poncho starts with a daring statement: Try it and you will never need another weather app. I don’t actually use weather apps, I open the window of my room and dance my arms around to measure temperature and wind. However, it didn’t take long to see what Poncho can really do for a user: Give it your location, and it will proceed to tell you the temperature and some other weathery information, plus offer you a set of automatic notifications — which include an evening report of how likely will it be for you to run the next morning. Not likely, Poncho. Not likely at all.

Honourable Mentions

Chat here: https://www.messenger.com/t/textandchill/

Amidst the populated ranks of a trendy bot army, a small but definitely based-on-a-real-need star rises. AndChill is a powerful ally when it comes to finding what to watch next in Netflix — that is, if you figure out how to properly state your replies. The bot could use some clearer instructions.

Not available for Messenger yet, but it’s just a matter of time. http://bots.duolingo.com/

Duolingo revolutionised language learning when it came out (if you haven’t tried it, do it. Seriously.) Because teaching languages for free is not enough for these people, you can now use a chatbot to practise as well. Because what’s seriously better than learning a tongue by having conversations in it?

Chat here: https://www.messenger.com/t/MEMEGENBOT

Meme Generator works more or less like a hyped Giphly. You provide a keyword (suggested ones were broken for me, this might need to be looked into) and the bot gives you back a bunch of memes to choose from. From there on, you are asked to provide text for different available positions. The result is a finished meme as good as your meme game.

Chat here: https://www.messenger.com/t/WSJ

This little bot sends you breaking news and live markets data in the shape of a morning brief. Alternatively, you can explore headlines or explore keywords on your own. Although the bot is more of an archive access, its creation definitely adds value to the company.

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