First we heard of Bots on Messenger [Facebook] platform, but then Microsoft showed the first AI powered bots for Skype in Build Conference 2016 and ever since the Bots word is doing rounds. While many have predicted Bots have the power to kill Apps and I also feel some Apps will be killed by Bots, but to be specific there are a category of Apps that are under threat from Bots not all. In my opinion the hype that bots will take over is overblown. If you think through then it becomes clear that the Apps that can be replaced are service apps like Skyscanner, Yelp, MySmartPrice [Price comparison], Uber, MakeMyTrip, Banking (still few years away) etc. Bots are unlikely to replace Office Apps, Games, Entertainment Apps like YouTube and Netflix etc or the Social Apps.
Apps from service providers like Dominos, Uber, Amex, Indigo Airlines will be replaced by bots inside Messenger or Skype like platforms.
Let’s look at one app that everyone has and is used extensively. Flight booking app. The primary reason for a app like MakemyTrip is to find the flights on a particular day and then find the most suitable as per time or the cheapest one. And of course then book using the app.
Here is an example of the same task being performed on Google Allo using Google Assistant. Bots and AI are still in early days and the results are impressive. I’m currently a student and cost matters to me. Every time I search a flight I book the cheapest flights using third party Apps. If Google Assistant can find cheapest flights every time I search then no need to install apps like Makemytrip or Yatra.
The only convenience I have of using a travel app is instantaneous booking, web-checkin and one-stop updates regarding that flight. But the way things are moving its not far ahead when AI powered bots will take over these things.
Imagine this — you searched a flight and booked using Google Assistant or Cortana and instantly a message from Emirates pops in to your Allo app or Skype showing all the details of your flight. Flight delayed? Emirates can directly send you messages using those apps. The more integration and AI these systems use they will become more user friendly.
Similarly ordering pizza from Dominos, checking your credit card due or bank balance will become way more easier. I have a Amex credit card and the app is only installed so that I can check my payment due date and amount. If I can shout to an Amex bot on Facebook Messenger ‘Whats my payment date?’ and can get the reply and then move over to a Bot from ICICI banks and instruct [the bot] to transfer said amount to Amex card account, 2 apps will be instantly deleted.
Bots also make job of service providers easier. The primary source of revenue for Domino’s is selling Pizzas. Yet they are investing in developing and maintaining apps in Android, iOS. Being a marketing student I also understand the argument that having a mobile app installed on a users phone increases impulse purchasing. Lets say I’m hungry and I see Domino’s app and order or I want to order pizza and because my phone has Dominos app, I order pizza from them. But honestly these are rare cases. We just don’t order because of the app, but because we feel like having a pizza and they[Dominos] can always have a bot that will act exactly like app. And If I’m really carving for Dominos Pizza, I will ask my Google Assistant to order from them. Or if I’m only asking for pizza, all the Pizza restaurants will have to find a way to make it to the list that my virtual assistant or bot shows me. This makes the game a level playing field.
Yet, a total bots takeover is still couple of years away [at best]. In the earlier fight booking example, I still need to use a mobile browser to go to the Airline’s website and complete the booking. But once everyone comes on-board and APIs are plugged in, then I believe we can book a flight instantly from within a messaging platform and everything from payments to passenger details will be taken care of.
One more limitation is natural word precessing. Bots still are learning to interact with humans in the language we speak. Once messaging platforms gain 100% natural language processing ability interaction is going to be more humanly. The progress from early days Siri to present Alexa is huge. Today Alexa can book a Uber for me and who knows what she can do in two years.
Until then apps will be there and continue to eat precious device memory and home screens.
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Author — Jnanadarshan Nayak