Talking to a chatbot can be a lot of fun, and if you have the desire, dedication and skills to create, maintain and manage your own chatbot, you can do it. Whether you choose a fully stand-alone “virtual companion”, or take on the challenge of creating your own web-based chatbot, there are several options available to you, the prospective new botmaster, for creating a new chatbot. Nevertheless, first of all you have to choose between a stand-alone chatbot application, and a web-based chatbot.
The issue is only going to get more relevant. Facebook has made a big push with chatbots in its Messenger chat app. The company wants 1.2 billion people on the app to use it for everything from food delivery to shopping. Facebook also wants it to be a customer service utopia, in which people text with bots instead of calling up companies on the phone.
The classic historic early chatbots are ELIZA (1966) and PARRY (1972). More recent notable programs include A.L.I.C.E., Jabberwacky and D.U.D.E (Agence Nationale de la Recherche and CNRS 2006). While ELIZA and PARRY were used exclusively to simulate typed conversation, many chatbots now include functional features such as games and web searching abilities. In 1984, a book called The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed was published, allegedly written by the chatbot Racter (though the program as released would not have been capable of doing so).
“Major shifts on large platforms should be seen as an opportunities for distribution. That said, we need to be careful not to judge the very early prototypes too harshly as the platforms are far from complete. I believe Facebook’s recent launch is the beginning of a new application platform for micro application experiences. The fundamental idea is that customers will interact with just enough UI, whether conversational and/or widgets, to be delighted by a service/brand with immediate access to a rich profile and without the complexities of installing a native app, all fueled by mature advertising products. It’s potentially a massive opportunity.” — Aaron Batalion, Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners
Conversable is the enterprise-class, SaaS platform that will build your bot with you. They work with a lot of Fortune 500 companies (they’re behind the Whole Foods, Pizza Hut, 7-11, and Dunkin Donuts bots, among others). They go beyond Facebook Messenger, and will make sure your conversations are happening across all channels, including voice-based ones (like, for instance, OnStar).
Messenger bots might also be able to revolutionize customer support. Facebook has become a popular platform for brands to interact with their customers. Many times customers will take a complaint to a brand’s Facebook page and have it resolved over chat. A Messenger bot makes it easier for you to get help. The quality of the support will vary but for smaller business that rely on Facebook for sales a bot is going to help them stay ‘online’ 24/7.