It’s been almost a year since Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, proclaimed that “bots are the new apps.”
However, despite promising to be a revolution in the way we interact with services and businesses on the internet, the progress of these programs designed to interact with users, has been disappointing.
The vast majority of them were ineffective, useless or simply defective.
But this week my optimism was reborn from Alec Jones, a 14-year-old boy from Victoria, B.C.
The real problem is that there are not enough people on Facebook to know what a bot is
– Alec Jones, 14 years old
For the past six months, Alec has been working on Christopher Bot , a chatbot that helps students keep track of their weekly assignments.
To set it up, you should only share your school time with the bot and the bot will send students a message at the end of each lesson to ask if they were sent homework to do.
- “Do you have math homework?” , Asked the bot, while, at 30 years of age, I pretended to pretend to be a child to check the machine.
- “Yes,” I replied.
- “Your teacher needs to relax a little when assigning homework,” he replied, before asking me, “What task did he send you?”
- “More algebra :-(“
- “Okay, understood . “
Through this system, I could easily include “algebra” in a weekly calendar that I could later access at any time to check what I needed to do.
Once I completed the task, he told Christopher Bot, and the machine congratulated me, automatically removing those exercises from the list of things I had to do. The best? That during the holiday season, the bot does not bother.
The promise of the chatbot
What impresses me so much about this technology is that, of all the experiments I’ve observed, this is the first time that a chatbot was truly the best way to solve a problem.
Other chatbot are small-scale copies of other systems .
CNN’s chatbot, for example, is worse than any other chain product when it comes to giving you the news.
And the popular bot on climate information Poncho, although tender and well-publicized, has a habit of saying that it will rain five minutes after the water droplets have begun to hit you in the head.
n addition, users have little patience with chatbots that do not work as expected.
Alec Jones told me that most big companies are forgetting the most important thing .
“There are many chatbots designed by these big companies that are supposed to serve to help you interact with the service and add more functionality,” he explained.
“But it looks like they just see these new platforms, the bots, and they think, ‘Oh, great, look at that, let’s build a bot.'”
“It seems like they just make a not-so-good version of what they’re really trying to do.”
A product “good and useful”
Earlier this week, Alec’s bot was shared on Product Hunt , a website that shares information about technology products that gain or lose popularity based on the reactions they generate among subscribers to the service.
“It solves a common problem among many students,” says one of the users.
“I am also 14 years old,” another responds. “Great job, it’s crazy that you’re my age and you’ve created such a good and useful product.
Like any other web developer, Alec aspires to continue expanding what it has created so that people can use it also in the working world .
But, first, he believes that Facebook and others should do more to prove the usefulness of chatbots with their users.
“I think the real problem is that there are not enough people on Facebook who know a lot about technology and who understand what a bot is and why they do not use it .” People should know what they are, “he says.
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, explained about a scenario last year, in front of his web developers, that he was opening Messenger so that anyone could create applications.
But I bet he did not expect a 14-year-old to show him how to do it.