It’s been nearly a year since Microsoft’s Satya Nadella proclaimed “bots are the new apps”.
Yet despite the promise of a revolution in how we interact with services and companies online, progress has been utterly miserable – the vast majority of chatbots are gimmicky, pointless or just flat out broken.
But this week I was given great cause for optimism, in the form of Alec Jones, a 14-year-old from Victoria, Canada.
For the past six months, Alec been working on Christopher Bot, a chatbot that helps students keep track of homework they’ve been given over the course of a week.
To set things up, a student shares his or her schedule with Christopher Bot, and from then on it will send a quick message at the end of each lesson asking if any homework had been set.
“Do you have homework for maths?” it asked 30-year-old me pretending to be a child for the sake of this piece.
“Yes!” I replied.
“Your teacher needs to chill out on the homework,” came the auto-response, adding, “what homework do you have?”