Voice interfaces are so 2016.
Not that Alexa and Google’s voice assistant won’t grow a bunch more in 2017, they will. But the reality is the smart home continues to evolve at a rapid clip, and one of the early trends I’ve noticed for 2017 is the emergence of the social messaging chatbot as a natural language interface for the smart home.
Credit Mark Zuckerberg for kicking off the trend in a big way at the end of 2016 when he debuted Jarvis, a personal growth project that the Facebook founder worked on for much of 2016. But Jarvis was more than just a skunkworks project, as the chatbot platform built into Messenger is gaining steam, including as an AI assistant for the smart home.
I recently used Facebook Messenger’s chatbot myself when I cooked steak with my Joule, and I was struck by how intuitive chat was as a command and interaction interface. While Joule is the first connected home device I know of to use the Messenger chatbot, I can certainly envision more devices that would work well with Messenger as the primary interface.
And if you’re more of a text message person than a Facebook Messenger user, don’t worry: text chatbots are coming your way as well. As Lauren wrote this morning, a startup by the name of Unified Inbox is working with the likes of Bosch and Samsung to text-messaging based chatbots into the smart home as a way to work with their products. And while Yahoo’s text-messaging chatbot platform Captain is mainly focused on organizing communication with other family members, it’s not a stretch to imagine it as a control interface for our smart home.
While this trend is picking up speed, we should note that it’s not entirely new. Back in 2015, I wrote about how one of the biggest social messaging platforms in WeChat had started to integrate with smart home platform company Arrayent to utilize the messaging platform as an interface for products using Arrayent’s IoT platform.
While Alexa and other voice interfaces will no doubt continue their eye-popping growth this year, the reality is they are only one form of conversational interface for connected products. That’s why you can expect 2017 to be the year people starting talking about – and to – chatbots as a way to start controlling their things.