Seemingly overnight, web robots, programed to parse data and automate simple tasks in response to natural language, have started to infiltrate our digital lives. Once a curiosity on AIM and MSN Messenger, bots have progressed in the last decade from simply playing us in games and answering our silly questions to now being big business. Indeed, bots are jockeying to fulfill our every whim, from offering help with purchasing decisions, to providing transit directions and airline check-ins, to serving up news that matches our interests.
Their rise coincides with the rise of messaging platforms, where behemoths Facebook and Microsoft see bots playing a major—and they hope, indispensible—role. Smaller players like Kik, Line, and Telegram are also hard at work on bot integration. Slack, meanwhile, is making bots central to the workplace.
Naturally, you're curious to see what all the fuss about. Be warned: While the bot era is definitely upon us, it's still early days, revealing both the potential of these conversational AI helpers as well as their current weaknesses. Here's a look at 10 handy bots you can try today. Notably absent from the list is Microsoft’s infamous Tay bot (pictured), which was taken offline after evolving into a racist bigot shortly after its debut. (None of these bots will sprout Nazi propaganda at you, promise.)