In a year that has seen the chatbot population boom, Foursquare is introducing something it swears isn't a chatbot. Marsbot is an intuitive bot, born in its own app, that'll offer users text-based recommendations at the right times.
Earlier this year, Facebook retooled Messenger to support chatbots, from brands and vendors, that are essentially the text-based versions of every phone call to a corporation these days. And earlier this month, Google announced that it was getting into the chatbot game with its upcoming Allo service.
It's the year of the chatbot. But a chatbot, Marsbot is not, according to Foursquare's Marissa Chacko, product manager.
"We chose to experiment with offering proactive and personalized recommendations," says Chacko. "It's a completely different mode of interaction. With a chatbot, you ask specific questions and give specific prompts for what you need."
That's right, Marsbot won't serve up answers to questions like Siri or Cortana. But as Marsbot gets to know its users, it'll start to blurt out, via push notifications, what Foursquare hopes will be timely recommendations.
"It'll take time for Marsbot to learn about you and for us to refine how it all works," Chacko says. "So please be patient. No one said inventing the future would be easy."
It's a curious decision to leave chat out of Marsbot, especially since the software was given its own app. But the bot is still being tested and improved, so the experience may evolve from one-side conversations in the future.
"Marsbot is a work-in-progress and we are still creating and imagining what the experience should be like," says Chacko.
For now, Marsbot is only available to iPhone users in New York City and San Francisco. And for those who qualify, they'll have to sit on a waitlist until Foursquare gives them the "go ahead."
Last week at I/O 2016, Google introduced its own chatbot. And while it isn't ready yet either, it might get the jump on Marsbot when the two apps are finally released.
Allo combines the power of Google Assistant, while supporting encrypted conversations with contacts via its Incognito mode. And like Marsbot, Allo wants to make food and drink recommendations to users.