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Can Chatbots Alleviate Our ‘App Fatigue’?

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Chatbots are the latest phenomena to be embraced by Silicon Valley companies such as Microsoft and Slack. Chatbots are kind of like artificial intelligence programs that act like personal (and virtual) assistants whose purpose is to help users with their everyday tasks.

At Microsoft’s annual conference in March this year, they explained to audience members how their new open source platform would let users create their own custom bots. They then showcased their own bot that lets users order a pizza via Skype, Slack or text message using slang language, such as “sup pizzabot, send a cheese pizza to my crib ASAP”.

So why the turn to chatbots? According to many industry insiders, we’re getting a bit tired of apps. comScore’s latest mobile app report shows that in the US, people are downloading zero new apps per month on average, and are only using a small number of apps on a regular basis. Most of the apps that they are turning to are social media networks such as Facebook or Snapchat.

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Apparently we’re overcome with app fatigue

It seems we’re tired of downloading new apps in order to complete simple tasks, such as ordering a pizza, checking the weather, or booking a restaurant. Today, according to some experts, instant service is everything, and anything that slows down the process is seen as a barrier to customer satisfaction.

To overcome this, developers have turned to apps that customers already have on their phone – messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Twitter – and are building in bots to provide this level of instant service that customers are demanding. Facebook has released their own version called M, there’s talks that Google will release their own messaging platform in the near future, and WhatsApp has also jumped on the bot bandwagon with their platform called Telegram.

Chatbots emulating WeChat

Developers like the fact that bots integrated into messenger apps let users take multi-tasking to a new level. WeChat, China’s most popular messaging app, does this so well. People in China use the app not only for talking to friends, but also for completing every-day tasks like transferring money, booking doctor’s appointments and paying traffic fines. It’s clear that bot developers are working towards this same level of service.

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Not everyone is falling for the hype 

But, while they’re promising lots, it’s yet to be seen if the bots can deliver. Due to their lack of artificial intelligence, they’re just not as smart as we want them to be. Remember Microsoft’s blunder in March with their chatbot Tay? It was swiftly taken offline after it embarked on a racist and genocidal tirade.

In fact, Twitter’s global director of developer relations, Prashant Sridharan, says that he doesn’t think bots will be the new app. While they might soon become a part of mobile innovation, apps will still reign supreme in the mobile-first era we’re currently experiencing. So, for the time being, bots might be a little bit of fun, but don’t expect too much, and don’t delete your apps just yet.

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By Cassie Chorn


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