Overview of Current Chatbot Offerings
The advances in chatbot technology are coming so quickly, it can be hard to keep up. Here, we will give a quick overview of the latest chatbot offerings from platforms like Facebook, Microsoft, Kik, and Slack. Overall, the offerings are impressive, but still have a ways to go before reaching the functionality of Asian conversational interfaces like Line.
Facebook, like Kik and Slack, has set up an application programming interface (API) so developers can build apps within their messaging products. APIs allow developers to reach chat users directly with their apps without having to go through app stores. As a result, tens of thousands of developers are now working on chatbots for Facebook Messenger.
With all these different bots on the platform, one issue is how they will be policed: Facebook wants to keep bots from annoying users with spam. The company is currently developing a chatbot analytics system that will make it easier to see which bots engage users the most, and which bots should be blocked or dropped because they tend to annoy users.
Microsoft considers bots to be the future of communication. The company is currently integrating bots into Skype and has made new developments on its personal assistant bot Cortana. It has also launched a bot framework that allows developers to integrate bots into their applications.
Since the company’s embarrassing issue with the Twitter chatbot Tay (within 24 hours of being launched, users taught it to say racist and sexist things to other users), Microsoft has focused on making sure its bots are ethical. The main points of the Microsoft approach to AI are to augment human abilities and experiences while being trustworthy, inclusive, and respectful. The company’s goal is to eventually have bots to help us with almost every aspect of our lives.
Kik is a messaging app highly popular with teenagers. News organizations like Vice and NBC are looking to secure loyal users by reaching out and building relationships with Kik users through new chatbots. Bots like the one from Vice learn from interactions and come to understand a user’s interests. They then send content that will be relevant to each user. The bots are supposed to mimic the feel of a conversation with a real friend. Since Kik’s audience is mostly millennials, the bots tend to use emojis, GIFs, and stickers to help make the conversations seem more natural.
Slack is an app for intraoffice chat and organization. Besides offering messaging, the platform is loaded with bots to help increase office productivity and efficiency. The bots can do things like recognize work that is well or poorly done, see who is talking too much in the office, or track mentions of the company on the internet. The bots are also designed to help make office life more fun, with bots for things like ordering ice cream for coworkers. Overall, platforms like Slack have the potential to fundamentally alter office life, as everything becomes mediated by the bots.
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