At the F8 developer conference, Facebook has unveiled tools for bringing bots to Facebook Messenger
Facebook is placing its bets on bots. During the F8 developer conference, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social network would be launching a new set of tools to allow people to build AI chatbots in Facebook Messenger.
The aim is to give customers new ways to communicate with businesses, with users interacting with bots that belong to specific companies, as a means to order products and services from food to cinema tickets.
In the example given during the presentation, a user ordered a bunch of flowers via the messaging service. Instead of talking to a human employee or filling out a pre-set form, the user was able to chat conversationally to the florist's AI bot to say what flowers they wanted and where the bunch should be delivered.
The bots that end up living on Facebook Messenger will be powered by the company's Bot Engine – a centralised AI framework that will, in theory, become more intelligent with the more bots and human interactions it facilitates.
The race to break the bot market
Facebook isn't the only company to go big on bots. Last month, Microsoft announced its own bot platform during the company's annual Built conference. At the time CEO Satya Nadella declared "bots are the new apps," which is a not-so-subtle indication of the aim both Microsoft and Facebook have with their bot frameworks – to bring about a change on the web measurable to the one created by Apple with the App Store.
Then again, the realities of bot adoption aren't entirely clear. Microsoft's now-famous millennial AI chatbot, Tay, may have been intended to publicise the power of bots, but ended up as a genocidal racist after being bombarded with bigoted messages. How will users react now that individual businesses can pretend to be people?