‘Chatbots’ are coming; next stop Facebook?

SAN FRANCISCO — Will there be a bot for that? That is the question on many lips ahead of Facebook’s annual software developer conference next week in San Francisco. Analysts expect Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to open up Messenger’s platform to “chatbots” and launch an online store for them. TechCrunch reported Thursday that Facebook will help software developers build “chatbots.” Facebook declined to comment. Chatbots are chat robots— interactive software powered by artificial intelligence with an assist from humans — that are designed to simulate human conversation, like a more intelligent version of Clippy or Siri. They are popping up on messaging services where they help users book a flight, order take-out or hail a ride.  Their rise comes eight years after Apple unveiled its online shop for mobile apps. Some observers have speculated the bots could one day…

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