Bots suck


Well, they’re stupid. They don’t really know anything at all. They have to look information up. And I could do that myself. Typing to a bot is rarely faster than opening a purpose-specific app or searching something. Google Now would fix this if it ever surfaced information I actually wanted, and did so within 24 hours of me wanting it.

Second, bots don’t even understand specific commands very often. Even Alexa, the best bot in the world, won’t play music from Spotify unless I include “from Spotify” in my “play Kanye West” command. But Spotify is the only music source I have. Why can’t she infer that?

Third, most bots are currently text-based. They’re just a UI that requires really step-by-step instructions. They’re a command line. And the command line sucks for most people. Memorizing syntax and typing it out perfectly is annoying.

Fourth, people don’t even like to type anymore, since most of their interactions will be on mobile. Snapchat is great because it allows people to share their nonsense without having to deal with an on-screen keyboard. It’s this innovation, not expiring content alone (though that made it comfortable to share video content), that led to their massive growth. Twitter’s brevity requirements are similarly beneficial to a mobile-first user base. Until the corpse of RIM rises from the crypt, we are stuck in this new reality of terrible typing experiences.

To date, voice-based bots like Siri, Cortana, and Google Now tantalized sci-fi fans but frustrated regular users. Alexa changed everything. It does less, but does it more delightfully. Interacting with Alexa kind of sort of feels like dealing with AI… And it’s awesome. Hence, the bot gold rush of 2016. The beneficiaries of all this cash should be working to fix the four things that make most bots suck:

1) anticipate what I want to know,

2) communicate it to me clearly and when I want to know it,

3) truly understand natural language,

4) and don’t force me to type on a crappy on-screen keyboard.

The first bot that solves these four problems will change how people interact with technology forever. And that won’t suck at all.

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