The Future of Bots

This session began by listening to a fascinating conversation between Sam Mandel, the Operating Partner at betaworks, and Chris Messina, the Developer Experience Lead at Uber. The VP and GM Klout and Consumer Data at Klout, Tyler Singletary, moderated this interaction. So how are things really developing in this space? More has changed within the bot world in the last 6 months than in the past 10 years. As process and growth has ramped so up quickly, it only made sense that the last panel of Big Boulder 2016 would be looking into the future of bots and their impact on human interaction.

Bots 3

In the existence of bots, they have had a “science-fiction fascination” behind them which has people interested; it’s now sexy to talk about bots. Messina commented that bots are exciting because there is a shift now of making computing more accessible to a wider range of people. Which makes sense, seeing how the number of consumers on the web only grows every day. And not only on desktops. Messina stated that Mark Zuckerberg estimates that the next generation of web users to come online will primarily be using phones and other mobile devices.

This all brings up several question for the user. Should bots be inside messenger apps at this moment? Should you build it and they will come? Or will the creators and implementers of bots have to also acclimate the users?

Users’ expectations guide these decisions as well. As Messina commented to Mandel, his experience with Poncho, an app that delivers customizable weather forecasts, is that the program does not learn as fast as he’d like it to. Which is to be expected, as there is much “grey area” that is encountered in this new industry, as Mandel puts it.

Sam Mandel went on to explain that the majority of consumers do not fully understand the world of bots or how to use them properly. The act of stepping back, creating simpler processes, and having more direct training is crucial in moving forward in the field. To put it simply, it’s different talking to a bot than it is talking to a person. Bots are just less capable. However, it should be noted that, since most people are now trained in executing Google searches, the Google search engine has now improved in understanding specific and customized requests. The “one-size-fits-all” approach doesn’t cut it anymore now that the dynamic is shifting.

Looking ahead, the future of bots lies with the constant change that the world has experienced in the past 10 years. There will always be room for improvement, for better connections between humans and applications. As users move to a “much more diffuse world,” the tech will be more and more align with how humans interact in the world today. The potential is there, and one can only wait in anticipation to see where it leads them.

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