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Texting Bots: The command line interface rebranded ?

Texting Bots and Chat Bots are all the hype, but is typing to a mostly dumb AI the way users want to interact with software ? Maybe other aspects besides AI and texting are the real killer feature of chat bots.


the concept of text based human-machine interaction isn't all new ..

As humans love context and ambiguity, a true conversational AI requires a huge amount of real world knowledge. Despite overly optimistic media coverage, we are years if not decades away from that level of AI system. NLP ≠ NLU 

Anyway, texting/dialog based UI has been there since the invention of computers, so let's think about some advantages and characteristics of timeline and texting based UI.

Command over Select

Classic UI favours 'select from a range of options' over letting the user directly command what he wants. A bot interface works the other way round: the user commands and the software has to find an appropriate service to fulfil the request.


The first of many app-fiilled pages ..

Timeline of interaction

Another aspect of texting UI is the creation of a full interaction timeline. This is useful from a user's perspective as well from a software perspective.
  • Software can relate new commands to prior interaction sequences
  • automatically repeat a (partially modified) set of interaction history. 

instead of automating your data backup, you now can automate ordering a taxi or pizza

Of course the timeline might contain graphical elements like buttons images, videos and charts if appropriate. 

Interaction Context

The existence of an interaction timeline opens up interesting context based features. 

E.g. commanding "order the same pizza as yesterday but more cheese" could be interpreted by a bot using context and timeline with reasonable effort.

"Tell her it will be 2 hours later" could be related by the bot to the latest interaction with a woman by scanning the timeline backwards searching for the last interaction with a woman.


Funny enough, this kind of UI brings us back to a very old UX paradigm: the command line interface shell ... 

At the time graphical UIs emerged, the user base was hardly able to use the keyboard effectively. UX's primary target was to make ''new technology" accessible to humans. Text command line interfaces historically have been favoured mostly by IT professionals as a more efficient way to operate computers.

Todays user base is used to timeline based UX and texting based human-machine interaction.

Applying mildly advanced AI supported natural language processing will enable a more natural and more efficient man-machine interaction for many use cases (beyond capabilities of dinosaur CLI's). So let's go experiment :)

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