Some ramblings about Conversational UI’s, Bots, and ChatBots.
At present there is a lot of attention on Conversational User Interfaces, Bots, and ChatBots – especially interesting/exciting for those who are interested (design and build) in how people interact with computers.
To reduce ambiguity it’s worth distinguishing between ‘Chat’ and ‘Bot’. Here I consider Chat as the interaction model whose interface is predominantly through natural conversation, the medium is the Conversational User Interface (Conversational UI or CUI for short).
A Bot is a agent (software application/service) that can carry out a task (semi-)autonomously on behalf of the user. Therefore the ChatBot is an Bot who interfaces with the user via conversation but achieves some task autonomously.
I’ve committed myself to writing and talking around the concepts of Micro-Interactions and Anticipatory computing and using a SmartWatches app as a vehicle to deliver the content such that it has particular relevance. The challenge is actually coming up with a compelling use-case (apart from the obvious), initially it was a Water Consumption Monitor, then a Pace Setter (i.e. allow the user to set a pace and nudge them when the user is slowing down), but then settled for a way for the user to navigate to a destination with less reliance on their SmartPhone (more on this on a later post).
This idea sparked a thought of how Smart devices (Phone/Watch/Earpiece/…) could help navigate the visually impaired around urban areas using similar techniques used by semi-autonomous cars.
Back in 2011 Scott Jenson, at the time a Creative Director at Frog, wrote an article titled Mobile Apps Must Die. In this post he claims, essentially, that the current model of searching, finding, and obtaining mobile applications is archaic and one that has been thoughtlessly taken from the desktop world. The main frustration is around discoverability, distribution, and fragmentation. Scott proposes a model where applications are made available to the user based on their current context, or rather, just-in-time, and delivered using ubiquitous web technologies.