Throughout 2017 chat bots have enjoyed increasing popularity on websites, in apps and in instant messaging services. Being a social media nerd, I’m pretty excited about what this means for Messenger. Messenger has seen massive growth and now has over one hundred thousand bots active on the platform, a 233% increase from 2016. Here are my personal top five fave Messenger bots of 2017.
Born out of the question “what if robots had imagination?” MurphyBot creates fun and weird images based on hypothetical “what if?” questions. Murphy is an experiment designed to showcase Microsoft’s Cortana Intelligence suite, and will try to respond with an image that visualises an answer to your question. MurphyBot is great for when you need a brain-break but be careful, it’s very easy to spend hours creating wacky images.
Developed by Candor Inc. the team behind New York Times best seller “Radical Candor: How to be a kick-ass boss without losing your humanity”, CandorBot was a one-day pilot designed to help users navigate feedback they’re having trouble saying. Starting with a phrase like “I need to tell Joe his desk is messy” CandorBot would ask questions to identify the crux of the issue and its impact. From there it would suggest a script to help you start the conversation. Sadly, CandorBot was a one-day-only pilot but I’m hopeful we haven’t seen the last of it.
3. The Hendrick’s Cucumber Adoption Service
Leading up to World Cucumber Day, gin maker Hendrick’s created a “Cucumber Adoption Service” that asked users to adopt a cucumber. After naming your baby cucumber (mine was Dr Sasquatch Perriwinkle), users could read it poetry, play it classical music, and generally lavish it with care and attention. When World Cucumber Day arrived, your cucumber’s greatest moment was achieved as it graduated to a garnish in a glass of G&T.
2. TFL TravelBot
Launched in June, Transport for London’s TravelBot chats with commuters and can help plan journeys, provide service updates, and share Tube maps. By asking questions like “when’s the next bus?” or “how’s the 111 bus?” commuters can quickly and conveniently access up-to-the-minute information about their trip. Commuters can also choose to share their phone’s location to make it even easier to find their next service.
I’m terrible at checking the weather before I go anywhere so Poncho is an absolute lifesaver. Every night I get a message letting me know what the weather will be like for my morning run. The hourly and five-day forecasts are quick and easily accessible in two clicks, and have saved me many times from being caught without an umbrella.
Special mention: eBay ShopBot
Shopbot is like your own little personal shopper, and given the sheer size and volume of items on eBay, ShopBot for me is absolutely essential. I used to shop from eBay all the time but have found the platform become increasingly overwhelming over the years. ShopBot helps you find what you’re looking for without scrolling through pages of search items. You tell it what you want, it will ask you some questions to narrow it down, and will populate a series of options for you to choose from. Voila! The perfect little black dress, just what I was looking for.
Whilst there is still a preference for customers to talk to humans, this doesn’t stem from a need for human interaction, but rather from the effectiveness of technology today. As AI, natural language processing and automation become more sophisticated; the application of chat bots in everyday life will become commonplace. In 2018, I expect we’ll see an expansion from bots as simple ‘assistants’ into far more collaborative and insightful tools that not only streamline day-to-day tasks, but help us live our best lives.