Monday, 1 August 2016

Attack of the Bots

Bots are a new tech trend in 2016.
Amazon,Facebook,Google,Microsoft,Apple all important companies announced bots support/integration in their products.

Of the all solutions/platforms the most interesting one for me, initially, was Amazon Alexa: because it is an expandable voice assistant.
(Hey Jeff Bezos! I'm still waiting the possibility to buy an Echo in Europe!).
I decided to build one bot, that works for 2 platform: facebook and amazon.

This and the posts that follows are a description of thoughts and choices I made to build it.

I didn't understand why the bots took so much attention on those tech companies until I started to figuring out some advantages over a traditional APP:

User advantages:
1 - Integration in known software: most of the solutions proposed are integrated in app or service known.. facebook messenger, skype, siri. Users already know them: No learning curve, they can rapidly start to talk with a bot with no need to learn and remember actions on user interface.
2 - Natural Interaction: everyone knows how to text messages and talk. This make bots attractive also for old people: it is not important if they can recognize if they are talking with a fake or real person, the important thing is if they can have the answers they are looking for.
3 - No installation/space needed on the device: no need to install anything on their device. No need to upgrade.
4 - Same uniform experience across devices

Developer adavantages:
5 - Userbase Potential: deploying something that become part of a known app (like facebook messenger) improves the link between the real user and the owner of the bot. In the case of facebook each Facebook Page(the page of a shop for example) can have its own bot that replies to a client. It is not just an anonymous user who watch a website, but a user with its information... Very valuable information if well used.
6 - One language for many platforms: web, web-mobile, desktop, mobile . No need to bother with accounts,login, oauth, tecnologies problems and so on!

Of course, Bots can't replace apps that make deep use of hardware on our device games , multimedia applications, photo application, complicated interaction apps and many other categories.
The challenge is also with web page ... but don't forget the interaction model.

Project Euro 2016
At the end of May, I decided to build a bot that gives to users, information about the European Football Cup 2016, informations like
- matches
- results
- teams
- groups

The bot were available for Amazon Alexa (it was published) and Facebook Messenger (it was not published).
The other important feature of the bot was to have a common data layer that were available for the 2 specific platform.



In the next posts I will explain the Amazon Alexa solution.