Before Alexa, and Siri, we had chatbots to serve as our virtual assistants. Just like their voice-controlled counterparts, they’ve been making our lives easier for years. Just type in your question, and they answer your needs.
However, the arrival of voice control doesn’t have to signal their demise. In fact, chatbots are still around. They’re constantly evolving, ready to take over the world in 2018.
What’s a chatbot?
In a nutshell, a chatbot is a computer program, or an app that can mimic human conversation. They’re commonly used by retailers, media companies, and by organisations such as Transport for London to help you find out when the next train is departing, or when the next bus will arrive.
They’re just like voice assistants such as Alexa. The only difference is you type out your question instead of speaking it. However, chatbot life hasn’t all been plain sailing.
Facebook had been testing a chatbot of its own. It was called Facebook M – an experimental text-based virtual assistant – which Facebook has just killed off. You could type in the field that you were looking for a delicious burger, and it would suggest where to go. It would even ask if you want it to make you a reservation.
Unfortunately, Facebook’s plans were too ambitious, and the chatbot required too much human help to make it work. However, there are plenty of other chatbots out there ready to serve.
2018: Year of the chatbot?
Thanks to a process called machine learning, chatbots will become better at understanding the way we ask questions. Their answers will be less robotic, more helpful. As our lives become busier, and we want to spend less time being put on hold by customer services, we’ll see even more of them in 2018. We’ll also see a more diverse range of chatbots appear, too, as more people learn how to programme them.
Chatbots worth checking out
From helpful chatbots that make life easier, to comedy chatbots made just for a laugh, here are just some chatbots worth talking to, all accessible on your smartphone or tablet.
Part of the Duolingo language learning app, Duolingo bots for iOS responds to a range of questions to help you translate phrases, and learn more naturally. The company has used machine learning to make lessons seem more personalised, and make learning conversational language easier.
TravelBot by TfL
TravelBot is a handy, and quicker alternative to Googling train and bus times. Just ask it when the next train is coming at your station, and it’ll let you know in a jiffy. Just fire it up on Facebook Messenger on your phone to be in the know.
This chatbot from the popular pizza vendor makes it even easier to book a table at your nearest restaurant. Once you’ve activated the bot on Facebook Messenger, it takes just less than a minute to book a table, without the need to speak to a human.
Prisma Bot for Telegram
Prisma is a popular photography app that adds cool and arty effects to your photos. With the PrismaBot, which you can use within the Telegram app, you can send it photos, and tell the bot what you want it to do without having to fiddle with settings yourself.
TransferWise for Facebook Messenger makes it easier to send money to people around the globe. It guides you through transfers fast, and can send you alerts for any national currency you like so you get the best rate.
Have you struck a conversation with any chatbots you think we should have mentioned? Then let us know in the comments below.