Bots are the new black when it comes to artificial intelligence. Every major technology company on the planet seems to be experimenting with bots or, in some cases, betting the farm on the idea that speaking to an intelligent agent and getting a natural-language response will be the new wave of computing.
Whether that’s a safe bet remains to be seen, but one area where a bot makes perfect sense is in learning a new language. Duolingo, the maker of a variety of language training solutions, is joining the bot club, according to Mashable. Learning a language is difficult enough without opportunities to engage in actual dialog, and Duolingo is apparently heading in the direction of putting a learning partner right in your pocket.
Generally speaking, bots are snippets of AI — or live connections to into entire cloud-based machine intelligence backends — that plug into an app, such as a messaging app or Duolingo’s languages app, and engage the user in conversation, answer questions, and respond to other input. Facebook Messenger, Microsoft Skype, Google Assistant, and a number of other technologies are bots, and they promise to expose more people to AI while making systems of all kinds more responsive.
Duolingo’s bot is presently available for its iOS app, and supports Spanish, French, and German for now. The bot responds to conversation, naturally, and helps out the language learner by providing corrections, engaging in dialog, and suggesting appropriate responses. The bot is smart enough to start out slowly and ramp up the complexity as a user progresses, and can even recognize the context of a conversation and respond accordingly.
You can try out the bot now on your iPhone or iPad by downloading the app for free from the App Store. The app requires iOS 8.0 or higher, and doesn’t seem to be available yet for Android or Windows phones. If you’re looking to learn a language with the least amount of stress and embarrassment, then perhaps Duolingo’s new bot is just the practice partner you’ve been looking for.