Thinking About Bots

ramos alejandro via flickr
bot-bot by ramos alejandro via flickr

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking more and more about bots. I have gotten used to asking Siri simple searchable questions. I also find I don’t type text messages anymore, instead I am using the voice typing found in the Android keyboard and “OK Google” is something I catch myself saying quite often. I even talk to my car to change the station or temperature. Voice is becoming a normal method for me to interact with technology.

The newest generation of devices and initiatives by the big technology companies have got me speculating about the power of bots and how we might use them in the future. I am really looking forward to when we talk to our rooms like in Star Trek. I was immediately impressed when I looked at what Amazon’s Alexa is capable of, then disappointed it was not available in Canada. I found the Microsoft Bot Framework announcement intriguing. Google is also getting into the picture with CleverBot. All of these bots are experiments and very early in their development so we can expect them to have some issues. For example it only took a few hours for the Microsoft chatbot, Tay, to be “pwned“.

I am looking forward to my “personal assistant bot” to listen to me and automate parts of my life. For example, I am hoping I can say to my phone, “Set up a dinner appointment with Sharon next week.” Then my bot will talk to Sharon’s bot and they will exchange calendar information to determine the best time to meet. Then do some deep data analysis of my GPS history and other data to determine when and where we like to eat and compromise on a time and cuisine. Once a time is established, my bot will make a reservation using an API for an app like OpenTable. Once the reservation is made it will confirm the reservation with Sharon’s bot and then both bots will add the event to our personal calendars.

It does not sound all that exciting, but the time it will save is huge. For example, I am currently trying to find a good meeting time with 8 people. We are using Doodle to schedule the meeting but it will likely take days and a reminder email before everyone inputs their information. Using a bot, this could happen in minutes (or even seconds). Of course we will have to give up some privacy as this data will have to be stored somewhere and there is always a risk that the information will get out in a data breach.

I guess the big question we will have to address on an individual level, how important is our personal information and is it worth surrendering it for additional benefits and convenience. I know what I am willing to surrender.


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