Popular chat app Kik may not have quite the clout of Facebook Messenger or Snapchat, but what they do have, as of Tuesday, is bots. Specifically, Kik now has multi-functional bots that allow you to do things like shop, play games and check the weather, similar to features offered by Skype. The humble chat bot, a marvelous curiosity of early artificial intelligence technology, saw a small surge a few years back, with bots like SmarterChild gaining a bit of internet fame and making for an afternoon of oohs, aahs and laughs. More sophisticated bots, such as the award-winning Mitsuku chat bot, are coming dangerously close to being able to pass a Turing Test, a test where a human chats with the bot and decides if the person they're talking to is a bot or a human. Some bots, however, have been developed in a different direction.
Kik, among others, envisioned highly useful bots that would take commands, answer questions and take actions according to user input. This led to the advent of services like Google Now, Cortana and Siri, among others. Speaking on the decision to jump on the bot train, Mike Roberts of Kik said that "Messengers are the new browsers and bots are the new websites," an approach that mirrors the near takeover of India's mobile web by Facebook Messenger and a similar phenomenon in China involving WeChat. Bots built toward this mentality are featured in Kik's bot store, currently 18 strong, and can do things like insert relevant GIFs in a conversation or give style advice. Users can snatch up the bots from the app, or shop the bots on their PC and give the screen a scan via the Kik app to download and integrate their bot of choice.
Kik is pushing for developers to expand their bot stable and, to that end, has offered up a few resources for developers, including a dedicated developer page and the offer to hook would-be developers up with some of the bot world's big leaguers, such as Imperson, Massively and Sequel. The developer page says that bot development will be monetized soon and will likely get developers more users and better staying power than traditional apps, with roughly 40 percent of teenagers in the United States being Kik users. Head through the source link to check out the bot shop for yourself, or even take the plunge and try developing one.