There are too many apps. And many are too similar. But we’re not saying we no longer need apps. Maybe we just don’t need new ones anymore because there are already millions of them. Sometimes, too many choices is just too much. Ultimately, you get to the point where you just want to pick what’s simplest and most useful, and stick to those. And this is the opening that chatbots used to sneak into our world.
Chatbots (or bots) are personal assistants that are AI-powered (AI =Artificial Intelligence). They do a variety of tasks for you such as send emails, schedule appointments, book flights, hail a taxi, reserve movie seats, or order food for delivery. And they’re just incorporated in apps that you use the most, notably messaging apps that most people cannot resist opening at least once a day.
So what is it about chatbots that make them appealing? Aside from not having to download a separate app to interact with one, in contrast with apps, chatbots work like a natural human conversation. You ask a question, it answers your question. You say a command, it does what you tell it to do. In other words, chatbots offer a simpler and easier way to interact.
Chatbots are especially a welcome trend for the not so tech-savvy users. No more pressing of several buttons, moving from one screen to another, or opening and closing of different apps. All you need to do is open one messaging app like Facebook Messenger, type in your message, and you’re good to go.
You aren’t even limited to just one task too. With just one chatbot in one app, you can pay your bills, order pizza and book a flight all at the same time. And because texting has become an activity that has become second nature to us, chatting with a bot feels no different too. Which is probably why chatbots have quickly become so popular.
As Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement made earlier this year: “Chatbots are the new apps.” And so it happened that messaging platforms became the favourite partners of retail companies. Even if their own apps were no longer being accessed by the public, they are able to enjoy a wider reach because consumers just can’t stop using the messaging apps. And chatbots aren’t just good for sales either. They’re useful for repetitive admin tasks too.
So chatbots may be what we need to go back to basics and simplify what sometimes feels like a world that’s getting too complicated for comfort. But that will probably be true only during those times when we just want plain service.
What about those times when just getting things done isn’t enough and we’re looking for that feeling of human empathy? Maybe that’s stretching it a bit far and chatbots weren’t exactly intended for that purpose.
Who knows, though? With developments in AI accelerating in ways we can only imagine, a chatbot may eventually be able to do more than chat with you and do things for you. Maybe in time, chatbots will be able to feel for you too. And that’s one thing an app will probably never be able to do.