In the third quarter of 2015, we talked about the emergence of entry-level lifestyles and what potential impact this shift away from traditional menial labor as a professional starting point would have on the lives of up-and-coming generations. Technological innovation has made it possible for sweeping changes to how we utilize automation. No longer restricted to assembly lines, automation has come sharply into focus across a broad swath of categories, including the service and hospitality industries using robotics and artificial intelligence to make lower level jobs obsolete.
Recently, brands and companies have been adopting a new form of digital automation, using a concept that gamers have used (sometimes at the risk of being banned) for at least the last decade: bots. Botting in games is used to cut corners and automate tasks in-game that would normally take days, weeks or even months of tedious gameplay. But now that gamification and game design are mainstream, it seems only natural that bots would come into the picture sooner or later.
Bots function in the world today in much the same way they would in games: They’re meant to make menial tasks easier and faster, pulling double duty as automated task manager and virtual assistant—except that popular messaging services, like Slack and Facebook Messenger, are the interface instead of a stand-alone platform. We’re seeing bot integration instead of bot-based product launches, which makes sense. Bots are meant to augment experiences, not be an experience on their own. Slack has integrated an ordering bot from Taco Bell (TacoBot) in addition to its own support bot, Howdy. Howdy is a trainable bot that helps automate tasks in the corporate world that Slack accommodates. It automates many tasks for users, including setting up meetings, asynchronous communication between teams and, of course, collecting lunch orders.
Digital automation is moving quite a bit faster, developmentally speaking, than its physical counterpart. Bots could be the answer to the flailing wearables scene, offering a cheap, easy-to-implement solution for functionality without completely having to overhaul the products from the ground up. Bots could replace infrastructure for utility and function on smart products by essentially creating what would be an industry for automated outsourcing to third-party bots for functionality. This would unify the user experience through communication apps and messaging platforms, creating a task hub built on existing software. Facebook even recently released development tools to build bots within Facebook Messenger.
Bots will redefine the user experience. Engagement, personalization of experience and customer service are all about to undergo dramatic change as bots make it easier and faster for consumers to interact with everything. Remember the app industry and its boom after the release of Apple’s App Store? Imagine that with more launch-ready platforms in place and a broader acceptance from the outset as consumers are already familiar with the idea and developers are already creating them and integrating them into every platform they can. The market is already coming to fruition as you read this.