The struggles of Apple’s chatbot show that building bots is an artform

SeaKnight By SeaKnight, 1st Nov 2017 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>News>Technology

Wondering why Apple's first real effort at a chatbot is so low key?

Apple tries its hand at chatbots

The recent news that Apple added a chatbot for its music service on Facebook Messenger has generated a lot of interest. Apple claims that it can suggest good music for you based on just an emoji or a brief chat about an artist. The reality is somewhat different.

You would think that with all its resources, when Apple goes about creating a chatbot, it would be a goliath among its peers. Some state of the art piece of chattery that would put us at ease, remind us of the good times and send us on our way with some solid musical recommendations.

A quick test proves that Apple has done little more than created a fairly generic chatbot. Type in an artist and it gives you a few songs by them. Put in a genre and you get some fairly generic looking playlists. This isn’t what I want from Apple, I want it to find songs that will tune straight into my soul or make me feel better about my day.

And as for its chatbot capabilities, it doesn’t even try to respond to a “how are you?” which is the height of rudeness when it comes to being a chatbot.

The Apple fallibility complex

What Apple has done has assumed all the “good stuff” is in Apple Music and presented the barest possible interface as an access point. Apple has forgotten that people might want to chat about their music, or to discuss an artist, to find news about them or any of the other amazing things that even a modestly programmed chatbot could do.

Sure, you can stream music direct from the Messenger page if you are an Apple Music subscriber, or you can share artists with friends. But that’s not what a chatbot is for. Perhaps Apple expects all its users to employ Siri for this task, but again, why go to the trouble of creating a chatbot that doesn’t chat?

Sure you can send it an emoji, but does “crying” really send out the right vibe and when you get the generic tear-jerker playlist back, will that really help? Check out this good guide on how to use Apple’s bot, it won’t take long!

Any business can create a good chatbot

Whatever the market, any company can build a chatbot for free. There’s no coding skills required and the bot can be used on the company site, in Messenger, Skype or in a number of other ways.

An easy-to-use example is SnatchBot that allows anyone to create a chatbot using their simple web interface, test and tweak it. Then it can published to the site or your social media service, and the analytics info shows up on a neat dashboard.

Creating simple conversations, getting to know customers better, giving them a list of options, showing them video or relevant information are all possibly. There’s a lot more than the Apple Music chatbot would make you believe is possible.

In use, the visitor can interact with the bot before turning to customer services for information, it forms an alternative to navigating the site and can be a lot easier to use for sites that have a lot of information or products on show.

Other bot development tools can create AI-powered bots that are smarter at conversation, but for most companies, keeping the chat on the straight-and-narrow with a branching script is more than enough.

The keys to a good chatbot

As Apple is yet to discover, the essentials to a good chat bot include the following:

A welcome of some sort, and a little bit of get to know you. Even asking someone’s name helps newcomers to chatbots learn the ropes and understand the context of a conversation.

Personality is another key, let the bot have a voice or express an opinion or two. Just because they are called bots, doesn’t mean they need to be robotic. Adding a little fun to someone’s day will help the user along and make them more likely to engage.

Once that’s done, getting to the point is key. Your bot needs a mission that benefits the company and the visitor. Using the analytics or other data, find out what people use your chatbot for and ensure that it answers the questions people pose. Then start adding the neat extras and other information once any core use cases are solved.

With all that in mind, go and experiment with building a chatbot and see what you can come up with, it can’t be worse than Apple’s effort - and we don’t get to say that very often!


Apple, Apple Music, Chatbots, Messenger

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author avatar SeaKnight
Tech writer focused on how it can change the world, for better or worse

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