If you haven't yet heard, the chatbots are coming -- ready to take your pizza order, answer your technical support questions, and even help you respond to your friends' pictures in the most predictable way. We're still in the very early days of the bot revolution on Facebook Messenger, but we've found a handful that are actually worth shooting the breeze with.
The easiest way to find new bots on Facebook is through Botlist (the site also covers chatbots on other platforms like Slack as well). Once you've found one you want to chat to, you can jump straight to Messenger on the web to start a conversation, or open up the same links in the Messenger mobile apps. These are the 10 most useful bots we could find.
Read articles from Wikipedia inside Messenger, without having to go to the effort of loading up the Wikipedia website in a separate app. Alex isn't the smartest bot at the moment, so you can really only type basic queries to look for matches. The bot can, however, provide a selection of related hits to give you a choice of further reading. It's pretty simple and very useful.
2) Dinner Ideas
Tell Dinner Ideas what's in your fridge or cupboards, and it will come up with a recipe to try. The bot is basically just running a Google search using your terms, but it works well and links straight to the recipes its found on the web. You can enter the name of a dish to get instructions for making it, plus you can get recipes sent once a day or once a week.
We're big fans of Digg as a holding place for great articles and videos, and the Digg bot for Facebook Messenger brings some of that functionality to a chat window. Type "trending" to see stories that are doing exactly that, or enter a certain category to find matching articles. You also get pinged with a digest once a day, if you want one, through the Digg bot.
If chatbots can save us time booking trips then we're happy to hand over our travel planning to the robots. Hipmunk can understand a decent number of inputs, from "get me out of Chicago!" to "when's the best time to fly from SFO to JFK", and once you've got a response you can go ahead and book the trip or set up a fare alert for future price changes.
When talking to real human beings gets annoying, fire up Whatson and distract yourself with some trivia questions plucked from a variety of topics. The quicker you answer, the higher your score, and you win bonus points for getting several questions right in a row. Check the leaderboard to see how well you're doing against the rest of Whatson's friends.
Dive into some choose-your-own-adventure goodness courtesy of Sequel Stories, which tells tales based on your interactions with the fictional characters in them (complete with snaps purportedly taken from their phone). Although you are limited to preset responses suggested for you by the bots, it's still a lot of fun. Try different genres like romance, fantasy or crime stories.
Apparently the world's first "fashion shopping botfriend," a description that should tell you right away whether you're going to get on with Fify. If you are after some clothes shopping assistance, Fify is handy. It's able to recognise a variety of queries, can show you matching and related items right in Messenger, and even keeps track of your orders.
Whenever there's a new type of tech in town, weather forecasts are usually first in line for testing, and HippoBot does a passable job of keeping you up to date with forecasts. Ask about the weather on a particular day or at the weekend, although its understanding of advanced phrases is limited. You can get daily updates delivered via Messenger, too.
Bots should theoretically be good at instant translations, and Lingio Translate hits the mark well enough. Not only can it translate your text into a few dozen languages (including Klingon), it can also speak out translations and run fun little quizzes in the languages of your choice, perfect for fitting some language learning into a spare five minutes or for quick on-the-go translations.
10) Ask Haley
Ask Haley offers recreational ideas for your kids based on their ages and interests, and the bot strikes a good balance between preset responses that you can just click on and more creative ones you can add yourself. For now, it's only available for use in Austin, Texas, but we wouldn't be surprised if it starts servicing other major cities before too long.