Chatbots are evolving to master more complex questions and requests. While it's still early days for the technology, companies across industries have tapped these virtual assistants to provide better customer service.
Hundreds of chatbots now aim to spread social good. Here are five that offer users help with mental health, legal advice, getting a raise, adopting an animal, and sharing their voice.
1. Woebot: A robot therapist
Woebot is a robot therapist that helps people manage their mental health. Operating through Facebook Messenger and drawing from cognitive behavior therapy, Woebot checks in with users in brief daily conversations about their mood, and sends videos and tools depending on the user's needs at the moment.
Woebot isn't meant to replace traditional therapists, but rather to supplement them, according to founder Alison Darcy, a clinical research psychologist from Stanford University.
"In a world where so many people have smartphones and are accustomed to 24/7 connectivity, the convenience of a Facebook-integrated chatbot is unparalleled," Darcy said. "It's an additional option for people who may need help getting through a difficult time, to help provide a therapeutic experience to those who may otherwise not receive it — whatever the reason. We view this as a big leap forward in digital health, particularly in the global challenge to democratize healthcare."
2. U-Report: Sharing your voice in social movements
UNICEF's U-Report bot allows young people worldwide to participate in social movements. Through Facebook Messenger and Twitter, the bot polls people age 13 and up on a variety of issues, ranging from education, sexual and reproductive health, access to health services, and how to navigate legal rights. It then collects and shares the answers with the community, so decision makers can use the data to improve the lives of young people in their communities.
U-Report has a growing subscriber base of over 4.2 million young people.
3. DoNotPay: The world's first robot lawyer
Started as a way to help people in the UK fight traffic tickets, DoNotPay has transformed into a bot that can democratize legal help by automating many common legal issues. More than 1,000 bots are now assisting people in filling out legal forms in all 50 US states and the UK.
Most recently, DoNotPay launched an effort to help people affected by the Equifax breach sue the company in small claims court, potentially allowing them to avoid hiring a lawyer.
4. Ask Cindy Gallop: Equal pay encouragement
Ask Cindy Gallop was created by ad agency R/GA to help women learn how much they should be earning as well as tips for how to negotiate a raise. Using data from PayScale and a user's zip code, job title, and number years of experience, the bot can alert you to average salaries in the area. Then, it asks a series of questions designed to prompt answers you can use in salary negotiations. You can find the bot on Facebook Messenger.
This app represents another tool to help close the gender wage gap in tech. A recent Comparably survey of 10,000 employees in the tech industry found that women earn less than men in nearly every tech job category, including finance, engineering, design, and IT.
5. Zo: Connecting people to adoptable pets
Microsoft chatbot Zo now works with the Best Friends Animal Society to help people connect with adoptable pets in their area. Users can chat with Zo via Facebook Messenger, Kik and on GroupMe to get information about and photos of adoptable cats.
"Conversational AI technologies, like Zo, enable more human conversations that meet users where they are on many of the most popular chat platforms," said Ying Wang, director of Zo.ai, in a press release. "Partnering with Best Friends Animal Society allows Microsoft to further develop Zo's social presence and empathy intelligence, while also helping cats find permanent homes."
- Siri's legacy: How next-gen bots will change the way business gets done (TechRepublic)
- 6 tips for integrating AI into your business (TechRepublic)
- AI chatbots are overhyped and unimpressive, say developers (TechRepublic)
- How we learned to talk to computers, and how they learned to answer back (PDF download) (TechRepublic)
- The Complete Machine Learning Bundle (TechRepublic Academy)
- Facebook boosts business appeal of Messenger with new NLP capabilities (TechRepublic)
- Your advertising stinks. Chatbots can help (TechRepublic)
Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.