Bots are going to be in our near (mobile) future whether we like it or not. Whether they integrate into our lives seamlessly and are genuinely useful for us, compared to things like Google Adsense where they definitely make advertisers money, are part of our online lives as second nature but may never really be an asset to us as an individual besides showing us what we were just searching on Google... is a different question.
Back in April when Facebook announced their bots for Messenger Platform their intent was to offer a streamlined avenue for businesses to interact with their users directly. They aimed for businesses to be able to provide things from, “automated subscription content like weather and traffic updates, to customized communications like receipts, shipping notifications, and live automated messages…” When this announcement was made, many companies jumped on board with an attempt to use FB Messenger’s bot platform as it was well intended. From what we can tell though, the reality of using this platform is far more complex and is not easy for all businesses to adopt. We do see a future here, but things need to be figured out first.
In this post, our Creative Director, Erin Essex takes a look at ten chatbots that are currently in FB Messenger to see how bots are being used currently, provides her own conclusions on the state of bots and where she sees them going in the future. These will be referred to as, “chatbots”. Enjoy!
In April of this year, Facebook announced their messenger platform would be supporting bots. People were excited to see the possibilities for how we communicate with brands or services expand.
There are two main types of bots; there are malicious and legitimate bots.
Malicious bots are the ones giving malware, spam, and other similar annoying parts of the internet.
Legitimate bots are broken into three types: spider, trading, and media. Spider bots are used by web search engines to help crawl webpages. Trading bots are used by online auction sites to aggregate the best deals online for a product or service. Media bots include things like weather updates, currency bots, messenger, etc.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) in regards to chatbots, fall on a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum we have stateless bots which basically just send back information to the user based on a request or predetermined rule. The other end of the spectrum are stateful bots. These are the extreme of AI that actually can learn from previous interactions, can provide suggestions or responses based on their learnings. Chatbots are not at the stateful stage yet, but they’re definitely moving towards that direction.
Upon opening FB Messenger, there will be bots already suggested for you. You can also tap on the search icon and search for bots that way. Erin quickly checked out the following bots. Most of them had limited functionality.
Instalocate was able to gather information about flights. - cool
Icon8 is a stateless app that claims to “turn your selfie into a work of art” and it did return Erin’s profile picture with different renderings and filters. - cool
Epytom Stylist said it was an AI stylist that analyzed Erin’s profile to recommend outfit choices. This seemed to definitely be leading users on to think it did more than it really did. - thumbs down
Dominos has a bot that allows you to place an order in the bot… but only if you’ve already done so on their website. #fail - thumbs down
1-800-Flowers is a pretty solid bot compared to others we’ve seen thus far. There’s definitely room for AI to be useful here and for this to soon be a stateful bot. - thumbs up
Allset allowed Erin to make a reservation at a nearby restaurant and order ahead. - thumbs up
Trivia Blast is also a pretty solid bot that provides trivia questions to users. It’s fun and it works. - thumbs up
Swelly it worked but didn’t make much sense but it seems like something a bored pre-teen might use? - thumbs up in terms of functionality?
Hipmunk worked well in providing information for the flight Erin specified as well as gave suggestions for other flights she might have been interested in. - thumbs up
Hello Jarvis helps you set reminders for yourself. It didn’t work quite as well as one would’ve hoped even as a stateless bot. - thumbs down
In terms of e-commerce, bots can be really cool, but also really creepy depending on how you look at it. As an example, if 1-800-Flowers knew that it was Erin’s mom’s birthday in a few days and it sent a note asking if she would like to send flowers to her mom for her birthday, that could potentially be helpful. Some may see that as encroaching too much into your (offline/online) life though.
Similar to when Google Adsense first came out, people were freaked out that whatever they recently searched in Google or were looking at on an e-commerce site, would show up as an ad on the top or side of their screens while on other websites. That was weird at first-- but then it became so much part of the web landscape that people started to care less and less. Advertising is now on the web is so fully integrated in the ecology of the internet in this way that it’s pretty much universally accepted.
Another benefit of bots is that it can take away the need for users to call a business in order to complete a task which can save the user time and energy (granted the bot works as intended).
The future of bots is exciting, and we’re looking forward to seeing where this technology goes.