Chatbots are obviously the main tech trend we’re talking about in 2016. However, it hasn’t happened just as an overnight success that they’ve become so popular. Instead, chatbots appeared in response to our unwillingness to bother ourselves with the new interfaces all the time and be able to merely use our apps in the most natural for us conversational way.

The loudest chatbots became discussed after Fuse Labs’ (Microsoft) release of Bot Framework on 30th of March, 2016 and slightly later, on the 12-13th of April, 2016 (Facebook Conference) Facebook’s announcement of new API tools for easier building and running bots on Facebook Messenger. Today we already have enough tools to build chatbot with less programming skills and time expenses and run it on one of the most widely used messenger platforms (Facebook, Slack, Kik, Telegram etc.) The questions are what goes next.

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Let’s take a look at a different environment yet in any way not less sophisticated one – Chinese tech world. One of the curious examples is WeChat, an instant messaging service developed by Tencent, Chinese holding company, and firstly released in 2011.

If western world became so into bots only in 2016, WeChat users, for example, have successfully used its bot platform since 2013. Indeed, WeChat is like all the apps you ever need in one. You’d use it to send voice messages, emoticons and snapshots to communicate with your friends, for business and communication with clients, as team-work space for collaboration, for shopping, to recommend places and get reviews, to pick up right gift for your parents and deliver it, to find groomer for your pet etc.

Bots are everywhere along your user’s journey in WeChat and if you were to launch your startup on WeChat, you’d first of all likely make your bot and run it there. WeChat has just passed the mark of 800 million active users and it’s well ahead of Facebook in monetization. Now it’s time for Facebook to think about what to learn from WeChat. Despite the prevailing fear of possible security loopholes, WeChat is actively expanding beyond Chinese borders primarily because of its undoubted usefulness.

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Consequently, we’re facing the question whether all the apps with their constant improvements armed with bots can be substituted by only one full-fledged platform? Is this really what we are seeking for?

As I don’t want to leave you alone with it, here is a short structure of the following text:

  1. Differences between chatbots and intelligent UI
  2. Industries where chatbots are used
  3. My list of chatbots for you to get this experience by yourself.

Chatbots and intelligent UI. Do we need to tell them apart?

Due to frequent confusion by the terms “intelligent UI” and “chatbots”, I feel need to clarify what they are about by looking at the examples. The most common “problem” of chatbots is that nowadays people mistakenly suggest all of them to be A.I.-driven. This misunderstanding usually happens due to another topic of prevailing discussions – Artificial Intelligence. However, it is far from the truth since a lot of bots represented in the market are still scripted, which means that all the logic is written down in the code.

Launched in 2015, Magic is one of the first and the most sufficient so far attempts to make multifunctional virtual assistant that is capable of processing different inquiries. Below you can see a snapshot of the dialogues with Magic’ s assistant (way more weird tasks handled to Magic’ s service you can find out here). However, to our disappointment, it’s not artificial intelligence that’s in charge of all of this variety of tasks but it’s human operators you’re connected to after service founds out what kind of help you are looking for.

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Example of conversation with Magic’s assistant (found on TechCrunch)

Now let’s see what intelligent UIs can propose us and how to tell them apart from bots. To come up with a clearer view on intelligent UI I will give you real-world examples. The user interface is a concept, which covers human-machine interaction and is extremely important part of development. How intelligent can it become?

Well, for instance, it (usually represented be a device that acts as a mediator) can be made in the way that we can communicate with computer only by means of gestures and voice commands like Microsoft Kinect which serves to provide body gestures and voice recognition functionality and can be used in developing apps and games.

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Microsoft Kinect used in surgery theaters.

Another example, which turns out to be unexpected for those who used to think about “user interface” only in terms of interaction with computers and smartphones. Google collaborates with Levi’s on the “Project Jacquard” whose underlying idea is enabling users to interact with their devices using body movements. Small sensors, which are in charge of receiving signals, are to be implanted into woven clothes.

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Snapshot of the introduction video of “Project Jacquard” . Click on it to watch in on YouTube

In some application you can come across both of them – intelligent UI and chatbot – just don’t forget that the first one is set of features that make easier intuitive human-machine interaction whereas the latter one represents robotic agent.

Although intelligent UI is a quite promising deal, most of the examples are still in development phase. In the same times, chatbots aren’t something rare anymore. What’s even more important is that you can trace their way in your routine life and put your hands on their development. That’s why now we’ll focus on the industries they can be applied in and look at the examples.

1. Marketing

Currently, the most common field where chatbots are widely spread.

CEO of BetterBrand Asaf Amir launched the startup with a bot marketing platform which aims at helping companies to create and use their own chatbot in the most effective way. He says: “Chatbots are proving to be especially effective for marketing. They successfully mimic the one-on-one interactions people have with their friends and family, offering recommendations and calls-to-action that feel more like word of mouth than advertising.”

2. Human Services

With “Tacobot” you’ll be able to order pizza by having the quick talk with the chatbot directly from your working space on Slack. They say: No matter how slammed, stressed, or on a roll you might be, no one should work hungry.

3. Media

For example, CNN’s bot is helping to quickly overcome scope of news by only letting now what field you’re interested in.

4. Finances

There is a virtual assistant called Pegg that helps to manage your financial information staying in Facebook Messenger or Slack. It has the convenient functionality to upload receipts and keep track of your earnings and expenses.

5. Education

Teaching assistant Jill (Watson) had been helping for 5 months students of Georgia Institute of Technology to create programs for solving certain problems by computer. After, most of them were shocked to find out that Jill Watson was chatbot.

6. Health Care

Since bots are capable of process large amounts of data, by chatting with one of them you’ll be able to get access to the huge base of medical knowledge and get advice on where do you need to go with your problem, whether you treat it by yourself, what first aids you can use.

7. Fashion and Style

H&M’s bot that is currently available on Kik analyzes your photos and due to your preferences picks up an appropriate outfit.

Finally here’s my personal list of chatbots for you to try:

  1. Flow XO – the bot itself helps you to build and manage bots with fewer efforts (available across Facebook (M), Slack, Telegram, SMS and Web Services).
  2. Operator – your personal shop assistant, that helps to find just anything you want (available on iOS, Android, and Facebook (M))
  3. GrowthBot – virtual marketing assistant and just very helpful tool for those dealing with marketing, sales and targeting at constant growth (available on Facebook (M))
  4. CityMapper at any case won’t let you get lost in unknown place (available on Android, iOS, across The Web)
  5. Engazify – a useful tool for your team productivity (available on Slack).
  6. WTF is that? – service with built-in image recognition that allows you to explore things around by making photos, uploading them to the messenger and ask the bot about them (available on Facebook (M))
  7. Zoom.ai – virtual assistant for planning, scheduling, traveling (available on Slack, Kik, Telegram, Skype, Facebook (M), across The Web)
  8. Smooch.io – common space for interacting with your customers (available across the Web).
  9. Skyscanner Bot – besides browsing tickets by price and location, has a lot additional helpful functionality (available on Skype)
  10. YellowAnt – virtual assistant that enables you to manage other apps from within Slack.

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Are the chatbots very important for current technology era? Not necessary. However, it’s obviously essential step of bringing everyone just as close as his (her) curiosity is to the most modern tools. It’s also about massive involvement in technological progress when everyone can put own hands on making future inventions more real by releasing more space today from the routine.

Finally, the popularity of chatbots gives an additional insight of how important it’s to bring the process of development as closer to natural evolution as we can as in the end of the day it all comes to the human need to conversate and receive constant feedback.

Recommended reading:

Chatbots Evolution

Let’s trace together with the way from the simple device (where we all started) to a smart virtual assistant.

How to build smart customer service

Build smart customer service. Most of us imagine that in the future we all will live and work in smart houses, surrounded by robots.

Pros and Cons of Chatbots

Education, marketing, healthcare, lifestyle, customer services – all of these fields suddenly turned out to be divided into automated tasks with chatbots.

Growth Hacker and Sales Hacker, MVP builder, love to run technology companies.