10 hot chatbot builders

Chatbots are taking over! These platforms are where your ‘bot gets started.

chatbot builders intro

Chatty bots

Chatbots are appearing on Facebook, Slack, consumer retail sites, you name it and they’re getting really easy to build and with some systems, really smart. At the low end where serious smarts aren’t as important, chatbots are becoming projects that non-programmers can build with ease and at the top end, while we’re not at HAL 9000 level yet, chatbots that use machine learning and understanding techniques are getting more powerful all the time. So, if you’re looking for new, shiny ways to interact with your customers or you want to add slick support for your staff on Slack, this collection of chatbot platforms is what you need to get started. We’ve got 10 chatbots to consider that range from “throw it together in an afternoon” for fast, simple results, to systems that require a CS degree and deliver impressive results. Let the chatbot takeover begin!

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bottr

Bottr, making bots really simple

Bottr bills itself as “The World's Simplest Bot Framework” and that isn’t an exaggeration. Although it’s not suitable for non-programmers, Bottr, a free open source project, is a good place to start experimenting with chatbots if you’re comfortable with a little coding in JavaScript. Built on top of Node.js and Express.js, Bottr provides an event-based framework that can interact with users via a simple Web server, on Facebook, Twillio, SMS, or Twitter and there’s support for WebSockets if you want to build your own Web front end.

chatterbot

Chatterbot, a machine learning chatbot

Written in Python, ChatterBot is a machine learning chatbot. Available as a free open source project: “An untrained instance of ChatterBot starts off with no knowledge of how to communicate. Each time a user enters a statement, the library saves the text that they entered and the text that the statement was in response to. As ChatterBot receives more input the number of responses that it can reply and the accuracy of each response in relation to the input statement increase. The program selects the closest matching response by searching for the closest matching known statement that matches the input, it then returns the most likely response to that statement based on how frequently each response is issued by the people the bot communicates with.” ChatterBot is more of an experimental system and you can try it out online (note that as of writing the demo appears be broken).

microsoft

Microsoft does bots

Microsoft’s Bot Framework, currently a free “Preview”, was designed for building chatbots that can communicate from websites and applications with users on SMS, Skype, Slack, Facebook Messenger, Office 365 mail, Teams, and other services. The framework supports natural language processing and other A.I. services including computer vision and speech, is open source, and can be deployed serverless via Azure. There’s also automatic translation to more than 30 languages, user and conversation state management, debugging tools, and an embeddable web chat control. Microsoft offers the Bot Builder SDK for Node.js, .NET, and REST. If you’re on Skype, you can check out the Spock Bot.

motion ai

motion.ai, a visual chatbot builder

Motion.ai’s pitch is “If you can draw a flowchart, you can create a chatbot” and that’s one of the big strengths of this system; it is very easy to understand and use. You can build chat bots for SMS, Facebook, the Web, Slack, email, Smooch, or any other platform with a message-oriented API. You can also interact with the chatbot’s internal logic via the platform’s APIs and WebHooks. Free for up to two bots and 5,000 messages per month, motion.ai is reasonably priced for increasing numbers of bots and messages ($100 gets you 50 bots and 50,000 messages per month).

nestor

Nestor, a Slack chatbot with powers

Nestor is a free Slack chatbot that provides a lot of functionality through pre-built as “bot powers” as well as being extensible by adding your own powers as JavaScript scripts. Available powers include making it possible for your Slack users to manage Heroku apps; manage Trello cards, boards and lists; look at issues, merge branches, and get Github stats; get information about your customers and how your apps are used via Mixpanel; find out about who visited your office with Envoy; or even tell Chuck Norris jokes. Nestor's API is based on Hubot's API and it tries to be as compatible as possible.

recast ai

Recast.AI

Bots built with Recast.AI are driven by natural language processing and A.I. so they can understand the parts of speech and learn to handle variations of input that have similar intentions. For example, “I need an appointment with the dentist” and “Is the dentist free on Monday” would be parsed into their components and interpreted in the context of the requestor wanting to schedule an appointment. The user interface is clean and easy to use and free for developers as long as they share their bot code on Github.

hubot

Hubot, “a customizable life embetterment robot”

Yep, that’s how Github describes their home-grown chat bot named Hubot. Github explains: “Today's version of Hubot is open source, written in CoffeeScript on Node.js, and easily deployed on platforms like Heroku. More importantly, Hubot is a standardized way to share scripts between everyone's robots … We ship Hubot with a small group of core scripts: things like posting images, translating languages, and integrating with Google Maps. We also maintain a repository of community Hubot scripts and an organization of community Hubot packages that you can add to your own robot.”

wit ai

Wit.ai

Now owned by Facebook, Wit.ai is a platform for developers to add natural language speech and text recognition and understanding. It has a simple interface for building chatbots and is available for Node.js, Python, and Ruby. The service is completely free including for commercial use.

octane ai

Octane AI, building chatbots for Facebook fast

Facebook marketing has become huge, in fact, bigly huge. But if you’re more into marketing than coding then you’re probably going to want a way to get a Facebook chatbot up and running as fast as possible and, when it’s running, be able to tweak it as experience and opportunities evolve. Octane AI is still in stealth mode with its chatbot system but the few clues it has given about their system and the profiles of the founders make this service worth keeping an eye on when it launches in 2017.

slash webtask

Slash Webtask, server less Slack automation

There are now quite a few really good chatbot systems for Slack which is for a very good reason; when an organization commits to Slack it becomes the focus for everyone and that makes extending Slack via automation really appealing. With Autho0’s Slash Webtask, you can create Slack chatbots to run reports, report on Web site activity, trigger other automation systems, … you name it. Webtask is very powerful and definitely not for noobs. Check out the company’s How it works and Programming Model pages to get started.

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