Will 2017 be the year of the chatbot?
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Other than the self-driving car, it’s hard to think of a technology around which there is more buzz than the chatbot. Chatbots, we are told, are set to revolutionize everything, but especially, e-commerce, banking, health-care and education. Just as the app took online activity by storm and has been adopted by everyone, the chatbot is going to do the same.

Yet we’ve been hearing this for some time.

What is the actual state of affairs? Has the chatbot revolution arrived?

One useful place to start in answering this question is with Microsoft’s Bot Directory. Here dozens of interesting bots are featured and playing around with a few really does make you see the possibilities. Although none of them yet really grab me as essential, I can see the value of most of these bots, especially those that help in organising my time and motivating me to exercise. This directory is now closed to new bots and here we get the first hint that bot development might really be moving at a fast speed: there are too many new bots for the directory to keep up.

Another directory, far more comprehensive, can be found here and again, if you want to get a flavour of what’s possible, it’s fun to play with these. But again, too, this list is already behind the times.

 

The big companies step up their chatbot activity

It’s the big players who are likely to drive forward the use of chatbots in modern culture. And where are they on the issue? The answer is that we are now seeing the definite enthusiasm for, and commitment to, chatbot development from them.

I think it would be fair to say that Apple’s Siri is a voice-activated chatbot. And if so, then the support is given to Microsoft users, Amazon users and Google users by Cortana, Alexa and Assistant respectively, show a quantum leap forward in this kind of software.

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