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Google introduces "Allo" and more in this month's OMGBOTS.
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OMG... BOTS!!!

A fun monthly roundup of bot-related news.
The big news this month came from Google IO — specifically their new communication app, Allo. Google is featuring their own chatbot exclusively in the platform, unlike Facebook which opened Messenger up to developers. Keep an eye on Allo — Google wants to get chatbots right themselves before opening up their platform. Watch them closely and learn from what they get right, and what they get wrong.

Articles

The Best

(If you only read one article, read this one.)

"Allo is a messaging app with Google built right in" from The Verge
Great coverage of Allo's announcement. This new communication app diverges from platforms like Facebook Messenger because they aren't open for anyone to integrate their own chatbots. “Google's chatbot is smarter than other chatbots. It has the power of Google's Knowledge Graph.”
 

Thoughtful

"Who's Afraid of Artificial Intelligence?" from New Republic
A fun read about the implications of AI on the tech giants (Apple, Google, Amazon), and our own personal lives. “Just as the laptop and then the smartphone freed us from the tyranny of working in place, so too did they obligate us to work wherever we are... What happens to life when AI is everywhere? ...At least now you can throw your phone into a lake. AI won’t offer that kind of escape; it will just be waiting for you when you get home.”
 
"Have you had the "AI Talk" with your kids?" from Justin Blanton
A take on how AI will affect the workforce, eventually displacing jobs for billions of people. “At what point does it become unfair to ask a human to compete with a machine that always performs perfectly?”
 

Entertaining

"Everyone's convinced ASOS' Facebook page is run by robots" from Mashable
Who doesn't love to watch a botched customer service interaction unfold? This should serve as a good cautionary tale of how much worse a situation gets when a bot tries to convince you it isn't a bot. Or what happens when your customer service fails so hard that everyone thinks the humans you employ are actually really poorly-programmed computers. 
 
"What happened when a professor built a chatbot to be his teaching assistant" from The Washington Post
A professor at Georgia Tech developed (with IBM's help) a bot to answer repetitive questions from students. He didn't tell his students they were interacting with AI until the end of the semester, and they didn't figure it out on their own. “Goel plans to use Jill again in a class this fall, but will likely change its name so students have the challenge of guessing which teaching assistant isn’t human.” 
 

Products

Botlist
I skipped including this last month because there wasn't much here, but it's filled up nicely since then. A good directory that spans quite a few platforms.
 
Foursquare's "Marsbot"
Only available right now if you're in New York or San Francisco, so I haven't been able to try it out firsthand. The proactive messaging approach is different — it'll be interesting to see if it struggles with the balance between helpful and intrusive, and does its job without feeling spammy.
 
Purple
I've been trying this out for a few weeks now. At a random time in the afternoon, I'll get an SMS from Purple with a screenshot or image, some text with KEYWORDS in all-caps that I can respond with to learn more (about bots, in this case). They always seem desperate to start a conversation about the day's topic but I never know what to say to a bot and I usually just read them quickly and move on with my day. It's not that the content is bad, but it has started to feel annoying even though I specifically signed up for it. And having to respond with keywords to get the 'full story' or dive deeper does feel like a little too much work for the value they're providing. I don't think it's providing enough value over a web page or article that you can quickly skim. If any readers try this out, I'd love to hear about your experience with it.
 

Resources

Microsoft Bot Framework
An open source SDK from Microsoft to help you build a bot. Looks like a really nice to way to accelerate development.
 
Chatfuel for Messenger
This looks like a really nice platform for building apps — almost seems a little too good to be true. I haven't tried it out personally, but it's promising a lot for "No coding required." Hey, I can't build a bot with every tool I come across — if any readers have first-hand experience with Chatfuel, reply to this email directly and let me know what you think!
 

Tutorials

I didn't find any great tutorials again this month — I would love to include some in the next issue. If you find anything great, please let me know!
 

Conclusion

Hopefully next month's issue will bring lots of exciting news from WWDC. According to rumors, we're going to be seeing a Siri API and an Alexa competitor.

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Thanks for reading,

— Will
Modified scene from The Graduate
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