Facebook chat bots might be the future, but right now they feel like the past

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TheScore gives sports updates, and that is all

Many “bots” are actually just alternative notifications systems. Poncho is a decent example of this, but TheScore is even better. This dead-simple bot tells you scores and news stories related to your favorite sports teams. That is it. It knows nothing else. To get started, just type the name of your favorite sports team.

thescore-sports-update

Whenever this team plays a game, or otherwise makes headlines, you’ll get real-time updates.

It’s straight-forward, and pretty good alternative to installing a dedicated app for real-time notifications. It’s hard to complain about the lack of language processing, because none is offered. We could see notification-only bots like this becoming common if they offer information that’s useful to receive in realtime.

Still, this is a far cry from the conversational user interface that’s touted as the future, and we question if it’s really easier to type a team’s name in Messenger than it is to type it in any other sports or news app.

Surprisingly, you can find a flight with HipMunk

Weather and sports updates are not complicated, which is why there are hundreds (if not thousands) of apps on the market that cover both of these things. But there are relatively few tools for finding flights and hotels. One of them, HipMunk, was quick to jump on the Messenger bot bandwagon.

Does it work? Mostly.

Start chatting with HipMunk and you’ll be told you can ask for travel advice, search flights, or search for hotels. I thought I’d try to find a flight. One problem became immediately obvious — HipMunk is not fast. Getting any results at all usually meant waiting two minutes or so, which is much slower than almost any website. And when the results did come, the bot gave me a bunch of pre-ordained dates to think about.

hipmunk-search-flights

You can scroll through these boxes of dates and pick one of potential trip itineraries. Do that, and you’ll be presented with a list of potential flight options.

What if you already know the exact dates you need to be gone? I asked Hipmunk for flights in a specific date range, and got both flight and hotel options as a result.

hipmunk-waiting

I wasn’t expecting this to actually work, and was pleasantly surprised when it did. Score one for the bots.

hipmunk-flights

To actually purchase tickets, however, you’ll need to leave Messenger. Tap “See flight details” and you’ll be brought to a summary page on Hipmunk’s website. From there, you’ll be directed to the airline’s webpage, where you can actually buy the tickets.

So is this easier to use than the Hipmunk website? If you’re on a desktop computer, not at all. You’re better off just heading to the website. But I could see this being useful on mobile, where there’s not as much room to work with.

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