Wed, Sep 21, 2016 - Page 9 News List

Our pick of the chatbots

The Observer


Tay might have been led astray by humans (see main article), but Microsoft has another chatbot that has been less problematic. XiaoIce has been living on Chinese messaging app WeChat since last year, and has had more than 10 billion conversations with people since.


Millions of people are already tracking their calorie intake using smartphone apps. Fitmeal is a chatbot that turns this into a conversation, prompting you to tell it what you have eaten and drunk, calculating the calories, and reminding you to check in.


The self-described “world’s first robot lawyer” was created by a 19-year-old student to automate the process of appealing against parking tickets, winning more than 160,000 cases since its launch last year. He has since expanded to flight-delay compensation.


This start-up wants you to live for ever. Or, at least, live on after your death in chatbot form. It “collects your thoughts, stories and memories, curates them and creates an intelligent avatar that looks like you” to interact with your descendants.


Dance-music star Hardwell ‘s chatbot is a cut above the marketing-focused herd. It is as much about fans chatting to him, and voting on their favorite tracks for his podcast as promotion for his music. Two-way interaction.


Indian start-up Niki launched last year, before the current wave of chatbot hype. It is an all-purpose helper, booking cabs, paying bills, recharging telephone credit and even ordering takeaway from Burger King for its growing number of users.


Messaging apps and their notifications could be seen as a source of stress in our daily lives. Joy wants to have a more positive effect, tracking mental health by asking you once a day how you are and analyzing the results, as well as offering stress tips.


Chatbots could be very useful at making up for the flaws in human memory. With Jarvis, for example, you can tell him to remind you to go to the gym, take the bins out or book tickets through Facebook Messenger, and get pinged at the appropriate time with a reminder.


Launched earlier this month, Habito is described as an “artificially intelligent digital mortgage adviser.” It uses multiple-choice questions to gauge your needs and then scans hundreds of mortgage products to suggest the ones that might suit you — without a hard sell to choose one.

Tina the T-Rex

Tina is the work of National Geographic: a Facebook Messenger bot pretending to be a Tyrannosaurus rex that children can ask questions about all things dinosaur. It is an early example of a chatbot interface used for primary-level education.


Acebot is one of a growing number of chatbots on the Slack messaging service for workplaces. It will manage your expenses, keep track of your to-do list, quickly poll your colleagues and handle a range of other digital office tasks.


Massively is one of the most interesting attempts to turn chatbots into interactive fiction. Its technology delivers stories through text conversations with their characters, both in its own app and in messaging apps such as Kik.

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