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We, Homebot

February 15, 2018

Home assistant bots are the new hot tech that people are adopting into their lives.

We are excited about the potential of this emerging tech so we took a Google Home bot and decided to play around with the interface and commands. We came up with two new bots that serve specific, if somewhat impractical, purposes. Exploring botdev (we’re workshopping this phrase) allows us to really get our hands dirty with the Google Home Software Developers Kit 2.0. And really, we will take any excuse to fiddle with new tech.

Our first bot, ISS, tells you the exact position of the International Space Station, and when you will be able to see it as it makes its orbit. We are a group of nerds who love space and spend what some might constitute as an inordinate amount of time thinking about the ISS, we thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if you could ask Google Home where the ISS is at any moment?” So we made that.

Our second bot, Joy, on the command of “Ok Google, bring me Joy,” provides you with uplifting news and facts, to infuse your day with a little bit of happiness. We decided to create Joy because, while there are a lot of ugly things happening in the world, there are moments of joy to be found everywhere. Joy can be anything from an uplifting story from the news to a fact that will make you smile (for instance, did you know that otters hold hands when they sleep?). Joy bot finds these moments and brings them to us.

While we are well versed in bot technology, we had to reevaluate how we approached ISS and Joy. We had to keep it simple because spoken input is super linear - ask for something and get the thing you asked for. Assistant bots consist of two main components: A conversational component that helps with dictating spoken word to usable commands, and a custom built API service that takes those commands and returns a response based on the user input. We leveraged Google’s API.AI service for the conversational component. Google Home makes it easy and straightforward to jump into the bot world and have 2 way conversations to help the user get what they need.

As these are supposed to be assistants that integrate naturally into your life, we wanted to keep the tone conversational. The prompts, “Where is ISS,” and “Find me Joy” (preceded by OK Google, of course) will put our bots in action.

As the tech is so accessible, we think that there will be an explosion of these niche, weird, fun bots in the home assistant space in the coming year. Both the Google Home and Amazon Echo / Alexa are the first real players in the landscape, with Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung expected to follow closely behind with Siri, Cortana and Bixby. It’s going to become an exciting space, where we see challenges big and small getting solved in unique ways.

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