13 Jul

“The bots are new applications”, said Satya Nadella a couple of weeks ago when Microsoft presented its development platform for bots conversational. Facebook introduced its own, and others like Kik, WeChat Telegram or while supporting this type of automated accounts that respond to questions or requests from users.

If we stop to think, what they propose makes perfect sense: why having to open an app, browse it to select the type of pizza you want to dine and perform a process sometimes tedious when you could open your application favorite messaging and say “I want a Hawaiian pizza dinner with Coca-Cola today at 10 pm”? That, at least, in theory, because we tried to chat with several bots and have concluded that there is still much to reach that point.

Buy Facebook bot is not faster than buy apps

The platform bots Facebook is still in diapers is no secret to the company itself knows this and therefore from Facebook Messenger and if your language is not English, yet shows you directly bots with whom you can chat. You have to look yourself in lists as they have prepared.

I talked to the 15 most popular bots and still are a disaster

Shop Spring is a bot that their owners defined as “personal shopping assistant”, but actually has little personal. The first thing you find when you start a conversation with him is that it forces you to go directly selecting options (what clothes or looking for accessories, the price range, etc.) and then shows you several suggestions. If you go off script and you request something directly, ask you to stay waiting until after a while, it does not offer answers (my suspicion is that here use real people to read and return meaningful results).

Not only the whole process would have been much easier from the web or from the app, but Shop Spring showed me the “danger” that has this type of bots: after taking a while without answers them, I was asked on two occasions if he would or not to finalize the purchase. As a user, and if anyone wants to resort to your bot, they have to minimize this type of interruptions to the fullest. Or know how to find the balance or these messages will become the new spam emails that everyone detests.

My experience with 1-800-Flowers, the bot that used in the presentation of Facebook as a sample, it was not too satisfactory. We meet a bot that is not conversational, which makes you choose between default and does not directly answer basic questions options, such as the if spread.

I tried to try their luck also with Operator, the bot app e-commerce same name, and more of the same: ask her to teach me white dresses was impossible simply limited to show options and you have to pick through them. If you deviate from what he shows you, does not understand your requests.

And neither is requesting information

We could not buy anything through Facebook bots but we could tell them? We asked Hi Poncho, a bot of time that can be found on Facebook and maybe have one of the most significant conversations of all in which I participated for this article (which already makes clear the level).

He asks me where I live, which means more or less regular. A basic request (type “Is it going to rain today”?) Answer me perfectly, but when you step out of the script and the problems begin. We are facing a weather button that is blank if you ask for the weather forecast for the weekend. We ended up talking “cat”, I say no more.

I have not had much better luck with bots Wall Street Journal and CNN. In the case of the WSJ, it lets you compare stock market values, yes, but not something as basic as reading the latest news related to my place. If I ask something more generic, such as news on Facebook, she answers me in some occasion and not in others. Of note, moreover, begins to send alerts by default with the news that creates more important.

With CNN, something similar happens although it works better. You can say what you want (for example, Real Madrid or Facebook) and shows you recent results .Of course, if you go to this structure and you ask the “most popular news of the day”, it does not detect exactly what you’re asking. The selection of news is not personalized, much as presuming it: to me suggested me a story of a giant crocodile found in Florida “based on what I’ve been reading” that had nothing to do with crocodiles.

We finished reviewing the information bots with HealthTap, a bot of advice “anonymous” health. After accepting the terms of use, which basically say that should not be used for medical advice, you can tell what your problem and you automatically will select some answers that health professionals have posted on their website. The problem? That selection is not anything special and for more elaborate questions you do not understand, you have to send your medical service and expect answers.

Kik bots are more shot … but not that much

Given my little success with bots Facebook, I go to other platforms where they already have some experience with bots, such as Kik and Telegram, beginning with Sephora in Kik, which makes me a brief test to know my style makeup. In this case, the bot is asking me questions and will respond according to what I’m saying.

While it is a too guided conversation in which you can ask products or advice, to my surprise it does understand some basic questions, like when I requested a red nail polish or a product to straighten hair. It was one of the bots that left me feeling better, although the entire setup process takes too long to use.

The bot H & M is similar: you request information to “learn” your style and then leaves you to assess “looks” proposed to store products. Yes, I could specifically look for outfits with particular clothes, like a pink shirt, but the bot is very basic when it comes to process what you say, for example, if you ask more options, does not understand unless you do with your specific button.

The Weather Channel, also in Kik, if I took a disappointment. In this case, you encounter a bot that you can ask four things (literally): the current time, forecasting a three – day forecast to 7 days or change settings. Will it rain today? The bot does not know and refers you to choose one of the predefined options.

Funny or Die, the web of humor, has a bot in Kik, so I thought it would be a good way of seeing one of my favorite sketches: the reunion of the actors in ‘The West Wing’. The problem is that the bot portal is not intended for this, apparently. Let me choose from four options: if I want something unique or something to make me laugh, and evaluate each of them with “funny” or “die”. From there I show videos randomly and there is no way to recognize other commands. What did I do? Go to Google and search for “The West Wing Reunion” as quickly.

Kik still has too many bots so I ended my adventure talking with style q + a, a bot which I expected to receive tips on style, makeup, and skin care, according to its description. The disappointment comes when you see that really the bot only connects people to give advice on other or to receive them. And if you decide to spend it, after a while makes you remember that you are there waiting for your answer.

Telegram bots and Twitter, a different purpose

We passed Telegram, where for now the bots have a somewhat different than what we’ve seen on Facebook and Kik Messenger or move away from the concept of conversational bot chatbot or purpose. The most popular are bots games or utilities that respond to certain commands. For example, I tried one that just you can ask images or GIFs. Write the command, consisting of the command “get” and what you want to receive the image, such as “Game of Thrones” and returns you no more. But in the moment when you leave the script and you say “show me the best pictures of cats” no longer knows the answer.

I bet by another simple bot to tell me the time, Weather Bot, although not get an answer. Which I answer yes is AssistBot, a personal assistant who is able to perform actions on your behalf. The problem, plus it only seems to serve in the United States, it is that again this is a bot very “closed”, in the sense that it provides you with operations you can do, numbered from 1 to 10, and you have to choose one of them.

We have not seen too many similar initiatives to those proposed in Twitter Facebook or Microsoft. Yes, their conversational bots and automated bots, but for now there is little choice in what you attend to bots or help you in certain tasks. I tried (unsuccessfully, I guess saturation) that @lazyset recommend me a playlist with similar artists Mumford and Sons, and when I asked to @DearAssistant where to buy flowers in Oviedo, has returned me a message so unhelpful as false , “it has not found anything in 100 miles.”

We still have to have really conversational bots

In view of my entertaining afternoon talking with bots, it seems that the issue of automated bots we have more or less dominated but we still have to reach the conversational bots who understand natural language and are able to adapt to what you ask them. In Microsoft and Facebook are aware of it, and so on their platforms have implemented solutions that enable developers to better understand how natural language without resorting to advanced programming techniques.

Once this difficulty is overcome, also you have much to say here the artificial intelligence and deep learning: not only we would like a bot that understands us when we ask for things but remembers our preferences, know us really customized from our profile tips and they may be improving as they interact with us.

While bots as assistants are promising, for now, are not substitutes for apps and do not think they will be as easier, fast and easy to use Google or web page that is to search for a particular product … without having to try several times chatting with a bot that you do not understand and that only allows certain predefined answers. While not, we face a very similar experience to that already offer some services customer with answering machines and frustrating “Press 1 for …”

Antonio Ortiz summed it up very well when he spoke of the chatbots as new apps, “or always work well together or not you’ll never use.” And, for now, still they do not work as expected.

Larry Wilson