Facebook and Microsoft seem to believe that chatbots are the future… and that if you teach them well, you can let them lead the way. Or something like that.

Microsoft recently released a set of developer tools called the Microsoft Bot Framework that helps developers create chatbots for news, retail, weather, or other services. And Facebook has released its own Facebook Messenger Platform for creating chatbots that work on the company’s instant messaging service.

But what are chatbots, exactly? And why is everyone talking about them?

I wanted to find out, so I interviewed Robert Stephens for the latest episode of the LPX Show podcast.

He’s co-founder of a new chatbot called Assist, as well as founder of the Geek Squad and former chief technology officer for Best Buy.

assist_02

Stephens acknowledges that there are a lot of limits to what you can do with today’s chatbots.

But he has his eye on the future, when chatbots won’t get tripped up by simple questions, and when you might not even be the one talking to chatbots… instead you’ll have a personal bot that can get in touch with other bots to help you plan travel, make purchases, stay up to date on the news, and much more.

For now, this is what it’s like talking to a chatbot:

poncho_02

You can find out more about chatbots, and find a list of bots to try, at the LPX Show website.

And you can subscribe to LPX in iTunes, Stitcher, through Google Play Music, or via RSS.

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