Between the urge to do something and the experience of actually making it happen lie all manner of details that can make planning a weekend with friends tedious. Sharing a meal at a nice restaurant is fun. Scouring the internet for an available restaurant and making a reservation isn’t.
That’s why we invented robots, to take care of all those little chores that eat up time. At least, that’s why we invented chatbots.
Despite their cute name, chatbots are, in fact, just search engines. We interact with them as we would a friend, but they’re not great conversationalists. However, in text or verbal form, they’re a handy helper to have around during a video call. There are thousands of them floating around our social media sites, and they can take all the stress and tedium out of planning an exciting weekend.
Rise of the Chatbots
Chatbots have been with us for a few years now. They’re the latest development in the Internet’s continued evolution toward user-focused apps that make it easy to access a large amount of information.
They’ve been designed to put us at ease by mimicking the most fundamental form of human communication—casual conversation. They don’t perform any function out of the reach of a Google search, but the way they go about that search is the most direct connection between people and machines yet designed.
For instance, social media platform Kik’s new weather Chabot brings you the same 3-day forecast any search engine would turn up, but rather than typing a query and then honing it down by adding your zip code, you can just say “3-day forecast” and the good or bad news is presented instantly.
The same feat can be pulled off by common apps such as Siri, OK Google, and Cortana. There are, however, thousands of bots up and running now, ranging from the broad ask-me-anything type to the hyper-specialized type that can order shoes from a specific retailer or bring you live updates from the Helsinki Stock Exchange.
These chatbots work well as standalone additions to your smartphone, but their greatest potential lies within social media and video calling.
Facebook Messenger’s Army of Chatbots
Since Facebook Messenger opened its doors in April 2016 to let Chabot developers add their creations to the platform, more than 11,000 apps have been made available. The more advanced of these bots can now incorporate videos, gifs, audio clips, and files into their responses, dramatically increasing the roles they can perform. And with Messenger adding video calling late last year, these chatbots will soon be migrating their way over to use in live video calls.
Skype already has its own fleet of chatbots—though not on the Messenger scale—and, again, most are of the text chat variety. They do, however, work well as third-party assistants during a live chat between real people. You can see here how the Sky Scanner bot can help two people quickly organize a flight; you just need to add the bot to your list of contacts and use the correct suffix when in need of its services.
Once the verbal version of these bots become regulars within video calls, all the nitty-gritty practicalities of a weekend plan can be shifted to the robot with a quick verbal aside.
Robotic Video Call Assistants
Despite being equipped with some impressive artificial intelligence and machine learning features, anyone who’s had a chat with a bot such as Siri knows these droids are not ready to join a real three-way conversation. In fact, their cringe-worthy attempts are so poor that Twitch has attracted 4.5 million viewers to a live streamed chatroom, SeeBotsChat, so you can watch the robots talk among themselves—the best bits of which have gone viral.
As a fetch and carry assistant, however, they perform much better.
Let’s say you’re in the middle of a video chat with a friend, and you start planning the weekend ahead. Every time you hit a point that would send you off-screen to perform a search, you can instead get your local bot to do the leg work. Again, as long as it is entered into your contact list and address correctly, you’re good to go.
Fancy Thai food?
“Chatbot, show us some menus from Thai restaurants in Manhattan.” And they’ll duly arrive.
Made a selection?
“Chatbot, make a booking for five at Awesome Thai for Friday between 8 pm and 9 pm.” And the job is done.
Want to see that new Denzel Washington movie?
“Chatbot, book three tickets for Fences on Saturday between 8 pm and 10 pm near Madison Square Park.”
And so on. You don’t have to do the heavy lifting yourself, and you don’t have to leave your video chat. Nor, thankfully, do you have to bother making chitchat with a robot.
You could search for a hotel for a visiting friend, a pair of shoes to suit your new pants, reviews of a play you’re considering, or even long-term purchases like cars or apartments for rent. The Chabot can take on all the tedious tasks while you get on with making the important decisions and spending your time enjoying yourself.