The use of artificial intelligence and ability to converse in natural language can make chatbots seem as if we are experiencing the future right now. However, you don’t have to be a Silicon Valley giant with endless developers to hand to build one. In fact you could do it from your own home and you don't even necessarily need complex programming skills.
Here are five of the best platforms to use if you want to build your own chatbot.
Facebook's 'Bots for Messenger'
At its F8 developer conference in April, Facebook launched ‘Bots for Messenger’, a tool which allows developers and businesses to build chatbots for its Messenger platform (which is used by almost a billion people). Developers build bots, submit them for review then Facebook decides which get onto Messenger. The three main capabilities are its send/receive API, generic message templates and the ability to customise the welcome screen users first see when interacting with your bot.
Launched back in 2011, ChatScript is a 'next generation chatbot engine' which has won the Loebner Prize (awarded for the most human-like examples of artificial intelligence) four times. It provides an open source framework for developers to build and deploy chatbots.
Pandorabots is an online service that lets developers build, host and deploy chatbots. It has 225,000 registered developers and its tools have helped to build nearly 300,000 chatbots. Pandorabots uses AIML [Artificial Intelligence Markup Language], which is the open standard for writing chatbots. Tools on offer include 'Artificial Intelligence as a Service', which provides API access to its bot hosting platform and the 'Pandorabots Playground': a free, integrated development environment for building chatbots.
Microsoft's 'Bot Platform'
In March Microsoft announced it was bringing chatbot capabilities to Skype (with other products to follow) and launched Bot Builder for Node.js, a framework for constructing your own bots. "It can handle both freeform interactions and more guided ones where the possibilities are explicitly shown to the user," according to Microsoft. It provides a platform where developers can build, test and publish their own bots, using frameworks like Express and Restify.
Rebot.me is a simple service which lets you create, teach, test and then deploy chatbots to your website. One of its main selling points is that you don't need programming skills to be able to use it. It works by letting you set up then customise your chatbot, teaching it to respond to certain questions. The more you talk to it, the more it learns. Rebot.me says its chatbots can help visitors to your website become familiarised with your products or services more quickly, among other uses.