Could Slack’s Slackbot herald the era of virtual colleagues?

Slack and its Slackbots are the start of a bigger trend with chatbots in the workplace. Virtual assistants powered by artificial intelligence are a staple of popular culture, from HAL 9000 in the Space Odyssey series to Samantha in 2013 film Her. But these assistants are no longer science fiction. There’s Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Now and the recently-unveiled Facebook M. Plus, there’s Slackbot, the “assistant, notepad and programmable bot” whose potential is one reason workplace communications startup Slack is valued at $2.8bn by investors. Slack started as an internal tool for Tiny Speck, the games company launched by Stewart Butterfield, who’d previously co-founded photo-sharing service Flickr before selling it to Yahoo. Tiny Speck’s first game, Glitch, wasn’t a hit, but the internet messaging software used by its developers…

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