RealTime IT News

You Have Mail...But Not As You Know It

[SOUTH AFRICA] Artificial Life, Inc., a producer of smart software robots (smart bots), Wednesday announced the launch of its Alife-BotMail technology by its Artificial Life Mobile Computing subsidiary.

Smart bots are software programs that users can interact with on a more human level: animated figures that use gestures and smile, just like we do, and can respond on questions presented in a natural language. The bots then tell you what you want to know and even try and work out what you're likely to choose in the future --determining what music genre you support and then offering suggestions to CDs, as an example.

ALife-BotMail is a bot you can send to someone's inbox. Instead of a plain text or HTML document, they receive an animated character that presents the contents of the e-mail in an intelligent manner. These characters can even be generated from video images of an actual person -- celebrities or CEOs for example.

While BotMail can be a fun way to send an invitation -with the bot automatically finding a map to the party and eliciting an RSVP from you- it's being aimed at the marketing community.

You send out a BotMail to your customers, its appearance tailored to appeal to each individuals taste. It presents the specials or news you desire the consumer to be aware of; it then makes suggestions to the customer based on that customer's profile. The customer can ask questions or get details at any point along the way, using English, Russian or other supported languages. When the conversation is concluded, the BotMail will verify and update the customer's profile, which will include the conversation.

Other suggested applications are surveys and Web site-reviews.

Long anticipated, smart bots are still fairly primitive but are starting to see applications on the Internet. Andersen Consulting predicts that bots will dominate the financial services industry, for example, and several sites are beginning to offer bot-driven customer service solutions on their websites. But it's an open question whether receiving the marketers' version of the Microsoft Word Assistant in your inbox will be more effective than normal e-mail, or whether the technology is smart enough to offer truly appropriate suggestions instead of being pointlessly intrusive.

And Heaven help us when the spammers get their hands on this one.