At yesterday’s F8 Developer Conference in San Francisco, CEO Mark Zuckerberg officially announced bots for Facebook Messenger to help users easily communicate with businesses. The platform will have a mix of artificial intelligence and human interaction. Facebook also introduced the Bots API for developers. With Facebook Messenger Bots, users can order products online, book travel tickets, directly access content from news publishers and do much more, right from the Messenger. Also Read - Facebook smartwatch to feature cameras alongside fitness functions: Yes, detachable cameras!
Zuckerberg also announced that over 60 billion messages are sent daily by users on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, which is nearly three times more compared to SMS. With the Messenger being the fastest growing platforms by reaching 900 million monthly active users, bots could further help Messenger evolve as business platform. Facebook has closely working with select partners whose bots are already live on Messenger.
How to find a bot?
Finding bots on Messenger is pretty simple. In the search bar of the messenger app, simply search for any of the business name. Alternatively, you can also scan the business Messenger code to get the bots. At the moment, Facebook has over 33 partners, including Bank of America, CNN, Fandango, Staples and Burger King among others, who have their bots on messenger. With the API now released for developers, we’re likely to see a lot more businesses and publishers integrating bots in their services.
How to interact with bots and what can they do for you?
Despite being in early stages, the current scope of bots for Messenger is pretty vast. However, at present, most of the services are available only in the US. With Bots, you can get notifications about your bank account, you can print photos, order food or book a hotel stay, right from within the Messenger app. You can even look for latest news or ask health-related questions to the bots.
There’s a bot from the company called Poncho, which can offer weather updates to users based on their location. That’s not all; users can also personalize the reports based on fizzy hair or pollen allergies that they are prone to.
In case of HP, the company has a printing bot on Messenger. When users send a photo, the bot will respond saying ‘Hey, nice photo,’ and offer printing options too. Users can either send photos to an HP printing location across the globe or connect to their personal printers.
We tried our hands on CNN’s bot and Poncho’s bot to see them in action. While searching for Poncho was relatively easy, getting around CNN bot was a bit difficult. Luckily, at the bottom of articles on CNN website, there is a link to connect with Messenger bot. Just click on it, login with your Messenger credentials, and you’re done.
The Poncho bot first woke up from sleep and introduced saying it’s ‘a weathercat.’ After clicking on ok, it will ask you for your location to tell about the weather. However, the service is only available in the US and we couldn’t test it here.
Next, CNN bot asked us to pick an option from – ‘Top stories, stories for you and ask CNN.’ Once you click on a topic, it will show you stories related to it, in a nice magazine like format. Here, you can get the summary of the news or click on read story, which will open it in the web browser. The questions you can ask is limited to top topics ‘Rio Olympics’ or ‘refugees’ in our case.
In terms of personalized experience and natural language processing, it’s a little disappointing on how limited the functionality of these bots are. Still, as the bots move out of beta and evolve over time, the experience could be different.
Also, the type of services that will be available through Messenger bots will completely depend on the company’s nature of business. Going forward, you may book a table in hotel to have food, book latest movie tickets, and more through bots. It will ultimately depend on how developers and companies can integrate bots in their service.