The bot space is still young, but not for long
For one of the largest bot conferences this year, it’s still a tight-knit community. There were fewer than 300 attendees. Though it’s obvious that everyone in the conference is bullish on bots, no one company seems to have it “figured out”.
But to scrappy startups, this is great. It means we’re playing on a level field, where even the tech heavyweights are still experimenting. It feels like being at the ground floor of something big. Bots are poised to become be the next paradigm-shift because of a several factors. Messaging is growing as a platform, bots are easy to install, and well-built bots can deliver a unique user experience.
Max Sklar from Marsbot made a great point: people only ever use 3 apps on their phone these days, and two of them are usually messaging apps. Bots that live on messaging apps don’t need the user to download anything. On Facebook’s messenger, it’s as simple as saying “hi” to the bot and you’re ready to rock. This is creates the opportunity for rapid growth on the back of an established app.
Well-built bots are already showing glimpses of a world without myriad graphical user interfaces. One of the unique experiences I had at Talkabot was ordering coffee with CoffeeBot. Installation was painless (after making a Kik account), and then I was able to order coffee by messaging the bot. When the coffee was ready, the bot messaged me. No waiting in line, or awkward interactions!
Bots can often be better than a GUI in cases such as booking a flight (Hipmunk) or getting a restaurant recommendation (Marsbot). Effective bots are “context-aware”, remembering past interactions and use that data in the current interaction. This enhances the user experience since the user feels that the bot is starting to understand them. Marsbot can recommend restaurants based on your preferences and your location. This goes a long way towards making bots much more compelling than pulling up Yelp to sift through a list.