What is a Bot?
Bots are software applications that have been programmed to perform tasks automatically over the internet. They pretend to be a person. The word ‘bot’ is a short for ‘web robot’.
They perform simple time consuming and repetitive functions that would have otherwise required some form of human intervention. Bots have been around for as long as the internet itself.
These programs are set to become a even more important part of the way we use the web in the upcoming years with the development in Artificial intelligence.
What kind of bots are there?
Bots have various uses. Google, for example, uses them to crawl and catalogue the web. Which is how it is able to deliver relevant search results, while criminals use bots to assault the internet with automated attacks.
Other bots help people win online auctions by bidding for them at the last second. My friends from India might be knowing about the flash sales of Xiaomi which provide products in limited quantities! Bots come out handy in such situation.
Some Gamers use bots as an advantage in Games by performing repetitive tasks with the click of a button. It is the Chatbots – pieces of software designed to simulate conversation that are currently grabbing the headlines.
Why are Chatbots grabbing the headlines?
There have been a lot of development in this field lately. For a start, we have seen the emergence of bot platforms and bot stories for messaging apps like Telegram and Kik which let you chat to bots.
You can chat with bots about a whole range of topics including sports, fashion and the weather. There is a sense that we are just looking at the beginning of the bot era.
The big news has come from Microsoft and Facebook, however both these companies are looking at a way to incorporate chatbots in their messaging platform and are inviting third party companies to get involved.
Why so much emphasis on Chatbots?
There has always been a big push towards getting us talking to machines. This could replace our methods of clicking and tapping through menus which navigating on a computer or phone
Chatbots have simple user interfaces. We can use our own voice to command it to do tasks for us. Currently there are bots available using which we can order food, book flight and much more.
Why would Microsoft describe Bots as the new apps?
It appears that the app market is reaching a saturation point. Smartphone users in USA spend approximately 88% of their time on the smartphone on just 5 apps – Facebook, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Youtube and Gmail.
With people reluctant to cram more apps on their devices, companies are looking for alternative ways to attract attention and gain business. Social media and messaging apps show no sign of decline in popularity. A lot of thought is going into how people can use simple messages to communicate with online services.
Won’t we need apps to use bots?
This is where things become interesting. Rather than having a string of bots built into thousands of websites and apps, we can anticipate a rising number of platforms that bring various bots together. A kind of one stop bot hub. This certainly seems what Microsoft and Facebook want to do. You might have used Google Now, Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana before? These personal assistants are embedded in the operating system itself.
What bots are active on Facebook Messenger right now?
For a while, Facebook messengers in the US have been able to book, track and pay for an Uber Taxi without needing to download an extra app or leave a conversation.
Now additional developers are on board and have been creating everything from a weather bot called ‘Poncho’ to a CNN bot that delivers news when you want it. Many other companies are getting involved.
This idea is that anyone who wants to carry out a task could end up heading straight to Facebook messenger. For example, If you want to book a hotel room, You can ask the hotel bot about the same. And the bot will reply a message stating the current availability of rooms and you have the chance to reply and book the room with confirmation.
Isn’t this all rather creepy?
The ultimate aim is that, in conversing with many of these bots, you could be fooled into thinking you were speaking to a human representative. Having a bot interrupt your private conversation would be particularly annoying, especially if the messages seem like adverts or spam.
Bots could also lead to loss of jobs, especially in call centres. And this is a bad news for Indians!
None of this should stop the development of bots, but we may have to start asking some deeper ethical questions few years down the line. Let us know what you think about the involvement of bots in your day to day activity in the comments down below! Also feel free to drop any suggestions or questions.