Woebot Is Therapy Inside a Chatbot

When Alison Darcy began developing a mental-health-focused chatbot for Facebook last summer, she made a point to give it a robotic name — nothing even vaguely human, like Siri or Alexa. She went with something charmingly mechanical: Woebot. Her service uses lessons from a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy method known as cognitive behavioral treatment to help people track their moods, and the name clarified that it was by no means a human replacement. It also showed off what Darcy saw as her program’s greatest strength. Read more

What’s next for bots on Facebook Messenger? Maybe helping companies sell.

As Facebook’s VP of messaging products, David Marcus says his team’s main purpose is to make Facebook Messenger do things “that you can’t do anywhere else.” Sometimes, though, new ideas don’t click into place right away.

On the latest episode of Recode Decode, Marcus spoke with Recode’s Senior Social Media Editor Kurt Wagner about how Facebook wants to help businesses talk to their customers. To do that, it’s rethinking and updating the “bot” platform that launched last year. Read more

10 Fascinating Facts About Chatbots

Every day, more people are discovering the many benefits of chatbots.

They’re easy to use.

They save your customers’ time.

They’ve got personality.

In fact, many people prefer to interact with brands and businesses via chat or messaging – and this trend is only growing with the younger generations.

The key is making sure your chatbot meets your customers’ expectations. Your chatbot must stand out – like a unicorn in a sea of donkeys.

I’ve previously shared 11 amazing facts about chatbots.

Here are 10 more fascinating chatbot facts. Read more

Very slowly, British travellers start to engage with bots

A Kayak.co.uk study into the British traveller reveals some long-term grains of optimism when it comes to bots despite the fact that, presently, more than half the country hasn’t heard about them.

The questions about bots revealed some positive growth over the past year, hardly a surprise since bots only came of age last May when Facebook opened its Messenger platform.

The survey found that 2% of Brits describe themselves as “regular users” of bots with a further 6% having used one in the past month. Another 6% said they have used a bot within the past year.

The sample was asked about its bot use a year ago, and 3% said they were regular users then. Kayak, rather bullishly, suggests that “with double that number having used a chatbot in the last four weeks, it seems that that this is a technology growing in popularity.” Read more

Facebook Wants to Merge AI Systems for a Smarter Chatbot

The framework, called ParlAI, offers researchers a simpler way to build conversational AI systems, and to combine different approaches to machine dialogue. The framework should make it easier for developers to build chatbots that aren’t so easily stumped by an unexpected question. A common criticism of the chatbots released to date, including those available via Facebook, is that they are too narrowly focused and too easily confused. Read more

INSIGHT-Amazon trounces rivals in battle of the shopping ‘bots’

Earlier this year, engineers at Wal-Mart Stores Inc who track rivals’ prices online got a rude surprise: the technology they were using to check Amazon.com several million times a day suddenly stopped working. Losing access to Amazon.com Inc’s data was no small matter. Like most big retailers, Wal-Mart relies on computer programs that scan prices on competitors’ websites so it can adjust its listings accordingly. A difference of even 50 cents can mean losing a sale. But a new tactic by Amazon to block these programs – known commonly as robots or bots – thwarted the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer. Read more

3 ways AI is about to change your business

AI is dominating headlines, though the stories swing between cool new gadgetry for smart homes and warnings by Elon Musk or Stephen Hawking about the coming Robopocalypse.

In trying to make sense of the dichotomy and navigating the waters of emerging technology, it helps to first separate the far-fetched from the fundamental. For the executive who needs to plan for their business in the next 8-12 months, here are three tried-and-true use cases for AI that will power serious solutions. Read more

TripAdvisor Debuts Facebook Messenger Chatbot for User-Generated Recommendations

Combining artificial intelligence, user-generated content and messaging capabilities, TripAdvisor has launched a chatbot on Facebook Messenger that provides recommendations for restaurants, attractions, hotels and flights.

While TripAdvisor makes its recommendations within its chatbot on Facebook Messenger, the booking part takes place on TripAdvisor.com.

If you chat with TripAdvisor on your mobile device, asking about the best vegetarian restaurants in San Juan, Puerto Rico, you get a list of 10 dining recommendations, replete with photos, a ranking, information on the pricing and cuisine, and whether the establishment is open. Read more