chat bots


'chat bots' Articles

Amazon Opens Alexa's Deep Learning and Voice Recognition Smarts to Chatbot Developers

Amazon on Wednesday made the AI and voice-recognition software that powers the company's Alexa virtual assistant available to all its cloud-computing customers. Called Amazon Lex, the service will allow developers to make chat bot applications using Alexa's voice recognition technology and leverage the AI's deep learning abilities to enable their apps to understand more text and speech queries. Amazon CTO Werner Vogels said that Amazon's cloud-based work in processing how humans write and speak would make chat bots more helpful than the clunky tools they've been in the past. "There's massive acceleration happening here," said Vogels, speaking to Reuters at the company's cloud-computing summit in San Francisco. "The cool thing about having this running as a service in the cloud instead of in your own data center or on your own desktop is that we can make Lex better continuously by the millions of customers that are using it."Similar to how it operates its other cloud-based services, Amazon will charge developers based on how many text or voice requests Lex processes. The company's hope is that its Alexa technology will take center stage in the current e-commerce boom based around chatbots. This week, Facebook announced its own virtual assistant called M, which can help users order food, while MasterCard also launched its own Messenger merchant bots for food deliveries. Amazon's move comes fast on the heels of similar announcements by the company, as it aims to head off competition in the virtual assistant space by rivals Apple and Google. Just last week Amazon

MasterCard Shopping Chatbots Now Taking Orders on Facebook Messenger

MasterCard added its digital wallet Masterpass to Facebook Messenger this week, enabling consumers to place online orders via the chat platform with just a few clicks. The rollout is still in the initial stages but the payment system is already available for some food merchants, including Subway, The Cheesecake Factory, and FreshDirect. The transaction process involves searching for and interacting with a Messenger chat bot to specify the order from a range of options. The user then arranges a pick-up or delivery location, followed by checkout confirmation, where they pay for the order via Masterpass. With 1.2 billion users on Messenger, MasterCard hopes the feature will boost fast food sales online by removing the need for consumers to type in their card information for every transaction. Instead, consumers load their card number and other identifying information onto the digital wallets and then use the wallets for faster shopping. That said, users still need to input their password for every Masterpass transaction, so the system lacks the ease of use of biometric mobile payment systems like Apple Pay. MasterCard is said to be working on a similar solution. MasterCard's plans to bring merchant transaction bots to Facebook's chat service where revealed in October. The credit card company also unveiled plans for bank bots, through which users can ask questions about their account, look at purchase history, monitor spending levels, receive financial assistance, and more.

Apple Explores Potential Chat Interactions With Siri in Messages Threads

Apple is looking into integrating its Siri virtual assistant into the company's Messages platform, according to a patent published today, enabling the AI to provide directions, retrieve movie times, and assist with peer-to-peer payments, among other potential uses. Picked up by AppleInsider, Apple's application for a "Virtual assistant in a communication session" appeared on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's website on Thursday, and details a system in which iMessage users can invoke Siri from within chat threads to get answers to relevant queries, complete scheduling tasks, and more. One scenario describes an instance in which users chatting amongst themselves bring Siri into the conversation simply by including it in the group thread. Using semantic analysis, the AI detects when it may be of help to complete a task and pitches in accordingly - such as finding a place to eat nearby, and telling the user how long it will take for their friends to arrive. Although Siri's responses don't appear to other users, the assistant is able to parse their messages in order to work out whether it can help with a task. For instance, in another example, the user asks "Siri, help us schedule a meeting," in a group chat thread and the AI cross-checks open calendar dates for the present users to suggest a potential meeting date and time. Participants can then vote for a preferred time and place, after which Siri schedules the meeting in everyone's calendar. In another example, chat members are notified that a user is utilizing Siri and are asked if they would like to

Viber Messaging App Now Lets Businesses and Brands Interact With Users

Popular messaging app Viber today launched a new commercial account format to enable businesses and brands to communicate with users (via TechCrunch). Approximately 1,000 Public Accounts including the likes of the BBC and The Weather Channel were launched with the v6.5 update, allowing users to subscribe to them and share stories with users in their contacts list. Public Accounts are also set to introduce chat bots to the messaging service, as Japanese-owned Viber rolls out its scalable API to companies which will include tools for bot developers. Public Accounts come on the back of a feature Viber introduced in 2014 called Public Chats, which allow people to carry on a conversation with the general public. However, unlike the latter, users will be able to interact with the new commercial accounts without needing to add them as a contact. Viber was bought in 2014 by Japanese internet company Rakuten, the owner of online retailer Play.com. The Cyprus-based messaging service has over 800 million

Telegram Messaging Service Launches Bot-Powered Gaming Platform

Popular messaging app Telegram today announced the launch of a bot-powered gaming platform that enables users to play games right inside their chats. Last year we launched a Bot Platform for Telegram. Free, powerful, and open, it was an instant hit among users and developers. Today we are aiming to push the boundaries further by launching a bot-powered Gaming Platform on Telegram. That’s right: you can now use bots to play games in your chats, complete with graphics and sound. The company promises 'hundreds of games' are heading for the messaging service, but around 30 are ready to go live, many of them published by developer platform gamee. Games can be anything from simple arcades and puzzles to multiplayer 3D-shooters and real-time strategy games. Users can start a game by interacting with a chat bot, either directly or by invoking a bot from an existing conversation thread using the @gamee alias. Gamers are also able to challenge friends on the Telegram service and start up competitions across existing chats, with high scores saved and updated for every game played in a thread and gamers notified if they get overtaken in a leaderboard. Telegram is promoting the idea of users building their own games, which it calls 'easy', and reckons some can be created in a matter of hours. The technology powering the games is HTML5, so they're loaded on-demand like ordinary web pages and therefore take up zero space on the host device. To be able to play the games, users will need to update their apps to version 3.13, which should roll out on the App Store store today. T

Facebook Adds Raft of Chatbot-Enhancing Features to Messenger Platform

Facebook has announced a raft of new features for its Messenger Platform to help developers increase chatbot capabilities and enhance user engagement and interaction. The update includes dynamic buttons for quick user replies, customer account linking for businesses, wider support for content types like video and audio, and user ratings and feedback. Facebook has also announced an updated set of guidelines for bot development, as well as a new resource blog that includes tips, case studies, and a Q&A series with businesses and brands that have already built bots for Messenger. The new tools and features are set out in more detail below: Ratings: People can now provide a star rating and open text feedback for bot developers. Ratings and reviews are currently shared with only the bot developer through a dashboard in developers.facebook.com and via email. Quick replies: Quick replies offer a more guided experience for people as they interact with your bot, which helps set expectations on what the bot can do. They include up to ten dynamic buttons that directly align with the most recent message sent by the business - making it easier to have an automated conversation with people. They allow for simple state management for developers — no need to manage button taps from ten messages ago — and make chat history cleaner, by only showing the selected responses. Persistent menu: The navigation for your bot with support for up to five actions. This eliminates the need for people to remember text commands and provides a great way to restart the flow or invoke

Microsoft Follows LinkedIn Acquisition With Chatbot-Based 'Wand' Buyout

Microsoft has announced it is acquiring natural language and AI messaging startup Wand Labs as part of a larger strategy to build out "conversation as a platform" (via TechCrunch). Founded in 2013 by former Google staffer Vishal Sharma, Wand Labs' stated aim is "to tear down app walls, integrate your services in chat, and make them work together so you can do more with less taps". Previously, Wand apps focused on using conversational interfaces to allow users to perform collaborative tasks, such as enabling a friend to control a Nest thermostat, for example. (All Wand apps have been removed from the App Store since the announcement.) "I'm proud of the work my team has done and what we've already accomplished in this emerging space," said Sharma in a statement on the Wand Labs website. "I'm delighted to be joining a company that shares our passion and enthusiasm for this new era where conversation is the central focus. Making experiences for customers more seamless by harnessing human language is a powerful vision and one that motivates me and my team." The terms of the buyout have not been disclosed, but the fledgling Silicon Valley startup has just seven employees – a world away from Microsoft's recent $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn, which has 9,700 full-time employees with offices in 30 cities around the world. The two deals are likely related, however, as Microsoft appears to be maneuvering significant investment in the direction of conversational chat bot services backed by big data, natural language processing, and predictive analytics.

Skyscanner Launches Flight-Finding Facebook Messenger Bot

Holiday booking service Skyscanner has announced a chat bot that enables users to book their vacation and search for holiday inspiration from within Facebook Messenger. The conversation bot's main function is to search for flights on request and redirect users to the Skyscanner website to confirm their booking and complete payment. Users can also ask the bot to search for holiday inspiration and find destinations they might be interested in based on their departure location. The bot searches using current trends and cheap offers to offer up getaway inspiration, which can be activated by users in chat by tapping "Don't know" when asked where they would like to go. Users can find the bot by typing "Skyscanner" into Messenger's search field. Users without the Facebook Messenger app can still converse with the bot by going to a browser redirect link that takes them to the web version of the social media company's messaging platform. Skyscanner follows the likes of Poncho, KLM, 1-800-Flowers, CNN, and Foursquare in launching a dedicated bot. Facebook brought the bot support to its Messenger platform last month, allowing approved developers direct access to toolkits and live chat APIs so they can build chat programs for companies that let them interface with customers. Botlist is just one dedicated store that has recently arisen where users can discover chat bots they can interact with through the app. Facebook Messenger is free on the App Store for iPhone. [Direct Link]

Facebook Plans to Introduce Customer Service Chatbot and Live Chat APIs for iOS Messenger App

Facebook is planning to provide developers with toolkits for customer service chatbots and live chat APIs, according to a few sources that spoke with TechCrunch. The company will debut the new features at Facebook's F8 conference next week, following in line with a host of recent institutions getting behind chatbot support. Facebook's intentions are to connect its users with businesses via its standalone chat app, Messenger. [Direct Link] The new program will connect those businesses with Facebook-approved chatbot developers, so instead of needing to navigate the construction of complex automated response systems themselves, they can focus on their company while developers create the chatbot software. TechCrunch acquired a presentation by Facebook aimed at chatbot developers, and it described some of the functionality the automated responses might have. It details how beyond just text chatbots will be able to respond with what it calls “Structured Messages.” These include a title, image, a description, a URL and calls to action such as visiting a website, viewing an e-commerce order or making a restaurant reservation. To further encourage the universality of Messenger, the social media company is also hard at work on plug-ins for the app that can be installed on a website's contact page. Facebook's idea is that this would eventually take preference over calling or emailing for questions, linking them out directly to the Messenger app on iOS or Messenger.com on the web. Going one step beyond automated responses, this would lead to live chat conversations with

Bot Rush Continues Apace as Kik for iOS Launches Dedicated 'Bot Shop'

Kik Messenger for iOS officially opened a dedicated bot store yesterday that allows anyone to create chat bots for use within the app. Chat bots are automated chat accounts that are programmed to deliver specific content or services when users interact with them, sidestepping the need to download a separate app to access the service or content in question. The popular teen messaging app Kik has been host to a handful of commercial bots offering services with limited interaction since 2014, but the launch of its 'Bot Shop' opens the door for third-party developers to build bots for the platform with genuine two-way interaction. Currently the store is host to 15 bots including games and services from established companies such as Vine and The Weather Channel. Kik users can access the store via the tab used to create new chats, while developers can get everything they need to start building bots at dev.kik.com. Bots are increasingly gaining traction in the mobile communication space, thanks to advances in natural language processing that allow artificial intelligence-based services to be baked into existing chat apps. Last week Facebook Messenger gained an airline information bot that allows users to receive booked flight information updates, while Facebook is expected to announce its own bot store for Messenger at its annual developer conference next week. Meanwhile, Microsoft announced the introduction of Skype bots including Bing Music, Bing News, and Bing Images, with the promise of more to come. Kik is a free download on the App Store for