Facebook recently announced Messenger Bots at their annual F8 development conference. This marks a recent focus on bots from other messaging providers such as WeChat and Telegram. Bots are designed for people who live their lives in messaging apps. These messaging providers want to keep you in their applications and bots offer the user a way of interacting with Third Party services without having to leave the messaging app.
Facebook recently demoed a couple of applications for the Bot infrastructure. The bot that caught my attention the most was the 1-800 Flowers demo. This bot allows the user to order flowers without having to leave the messenger app. The one feature that I wish they added was the ability too not hand over payment details or create a dedicated 1-800 flowers account.
My initial thoughts on this were initially negative wouldn't 1-800 flowers would rather people registered on their website so they could market to them more easily. After pondering for a while it occurred to me that they would be getting the best of both worlds. For one they are reducing the barrier to entry for customers. Also it would allow them to market to their users directly in the Messenger chat sending offers on the lead up to valentines day / mothers day.
A major concern I had before looking closer into bots was, do I have to learn a specific language or terminology for each bot. Would I have to stick to a script and ask questions like? "I would like some flowers" or could I ask more natural questions such as "I need some flowers quick!", "what sort of flowers have you?". Facebook is helping in this regard by providing Natural Language Assistance which should Iron out some of these problems. Facebook also offer Generic Message Templates which allow you as the developer so offer boxes and buttons for users to select without them needing type responses.
Microsoft has also recently announced Skype Bots that can book flights, hotels and automatically arrange meetings with friends around when your traveling. These bots will become more and more useful over time as they try to automate more and more of our lives.