Apps have reigned the tech world for many years, but the time has come for a new king: bots.
Why? Apps simply have reached their full potential. Since the early days of PCs and into the modern era of smartphones, the app has been the primary way we interact with computers. The size and shape may have evolved, but the basic idea of the app has remained static.
Just consider how much of a chore it is to use the average app. First you have to find it, download it, and learn how to navigate it. Then, in order to actually use the app, you have to dig out your phone or sit in front of your computer. Some simple tasks even require you to access multiple apps.
Sure, it works—but the overall experience can leave you feeling like a data entry clerk.
App exhaustion is arguably already setting in. Research suggests that the average smartphone user spends 88% of his or her time on just five apps.
They likely have many more apps downloaded, but those are too specialized or cumbersome to offer any real value. The simple fact is that apps can no longer meet our expectations for what devices should be able to do.
Luckily, at the same time that apps are running out of steam, an alternative has appeared on the horizon. Advances in artificial intelligence have led to the development of bots, which are tiny pieces of automation that are able to learn and adapt on their own.
In essence, they require a lot less from users. Bots figure out what you want to do, and then they do it for you. If you doubt that bots are already a big deal, consider Amazon’s Alexa: more than three million of the smart speakers have already been sold.
The technology behind bots is interesting but not necessarily exciting for the average tech user. What anyone with any kind of device will be a lot more curious about is how bots will replace and improve upon the experience offered by apps:
The end of the interface
Some of the most popular bots already in action include digital assistants Alexa, Siri, and Cortana. Unlike traditional apps, all you have to do to interface with these bots is speak out loud using conversational English. It couldn’t be more natural.
Rather than relying on complicated and independent interfaces like apps, bots work alongside users in the simplest and most natural ways possible.
A new universe of possibilities
The shift to bots will dramatically increase what the digital world can do to make our lives better. How? Because bots can be used to develop other bots; they automate much of the heavy lifting involved with the development process.
As a result, bots are faster, cheaper, and easier to create than apps. This frees up humans to focus on innovative features and perfect performance.
The start of a seamless experience
Unlike apps, bots are able to perform overlapping and evolving functions. If apps are like rooms along a hallway, bots are like a floor plan without walls. As the bot universe expands, it will provide an experience that is seamless no matter where the user is or what she or he wishes to accomplish.
Whenever there is a problem or need, bots will be able to easily and immediately provide a solution.
Technology made invisible
Technology has always been a tool, not an experience unto itself. Unfortunately, apps draw attention to technology by forcing you to stare at a screen, bang on a keyboard, and work through baffling menus and commands. Bots do just the opposite. They let users take advantage of technology that works invisibly behind the scenes. The intermediary is removed so that technology becomes interwoven with the fabric of daily life.
Think for a second about how you currently use devices and apps. It becomes clear that bots are what we’ve all been waiting for.
We’re moving into a period of human civilization where we’re becoming producers of thought, not producers of things. We’re going to need a lot of these bots and a lot of virtual assistants to help us cope and succeed.
The good news is that the underlying technology is advancing fast. It can’t be denied — bots are coming. And developers and users alike are eager to integrate bots in any and every way possible.
What do you wish bots could do for you right now? Whatever it is—and don’t be afraid to think big—it won’t be impossible for much longer.
Shanon Marks is the founder of design firm MU/DAI.