The Bot Era Has Begun
Bots are fast replacing apps as the main way we communicate with our smartphones. Much ink has been spilled, for example, about China’s WeChat, but few outside the country really understand how it works. WeChat allows its users to manage the world entirely through their smartphone, something which for many companies and countries is still a pipedream.
Unfortunately, many of WeChat’s most interesting features are invisible to those of us outside China. So why should the rest of us care?
To put it simply, WeChat = the future.
What WeChat does today, Facebook Messenger could do tomorrow.
Facebook recently announced the launch of Messenger Platform. This tool will allow developers to build chat bots for the Facebook Messenger app, which boasts an impressive 900 million users worldwide.
Microsoft, too, is getting in on the action. They recently unveiled the Microsoft Bot Framework. With this set of tools, users can create a bot for them and their customers to interact with. Many companies hope such bots will soon replace the more standard web and app interfaces.
To demonstrate the toolkit, Microsoft created a chatbot on stage for Domino’s, the pizza company. The audience was shown how a chat interface such as this could replace all the functions of the usual online ordering forms with their drop-down menus and check boxes. Those attentive to the industry will have seen this vision for chat bots before. But now Microsoft wants these tools available to everyone.
The industry is certainly catching on to the benefits of bots. Platforms like Telegram, Kik and Slack are already bot-friendly. And an incredible number of bots have been developed in the past year; honorable mention goes to Amazon which with its subsidiary Alexa have created the Echo, a state-of-the-art voice-command device.
With Facebook opening up to bots, and the strong democratization of machine learning techniques, I expect to see a wave of bots appearing in the near future.
Don’t miss out. Being an early adopter of this trend might mean gaining a huge advantage over those late to the party.