Facebook's F8 Conference: Chat Bots Expected to Take Center Stage

PHOTO: Founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg delivers his keynote conference on the opening day of the World Mobile Congress at the Fira Gran Via Complex, Feb. 22, 2016, in Barcelona.PlayDavid Ramos/Getty Images
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It's a tantalizing thought: Log onto Facebook, order a pizza from a chat bot, ask another to look for vacation packages while you ask a third to make a restaurant reservation.

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Facebook's annual F8 developer's conference kicks off today -- and analysts expect the social network could announce a plan for integrating chat bots onto the site. Chat bots are virtual agents able to mimic human conversation using artificial intelligence.

"It's this notion of conversations as a service," Patrick Moorhead, an analysts at Moor Insights & Strategy, told ABC News. "The whole element of bots are we can use them exactly like we chat today -- over SMS [text messages] or Messenger. Imagine connecting with a company where it automatically is either a real human or uses AI to know exactly what you want."

F8 is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday in San Francisco. The event is geared toward developers but always yields some new insight about the future direction of Facebook. Last year, Zuckerberg showed off the company's internet-beaming Aquila drone.

He also announced new capabilities for Messenger, letting businesses and customers send each other a chat.

"I don’t know anyone who likes calling businesses. It's not fast or convenient and it definitely doesn't feel like the future," Zuckerberg said.

While Facebook is keeping any potential announcements under wraps until the conference begins, the industry seems to be moving toward chat bots. Last month, Microsoft laid out its plan for bringing more bots to its platform at the company's annual Build developer's conference.

Messaging service Kik launched a bot shop last week, including offerings from Funny Or Die, Vine, Sephora and various other shops.

"We wanted to find a way to get more out of chat without adding to the clutter or detracting from the simplicity of the experience in Kik," the company wrote in a blog post. "We’ve found that bots offer a great low-friction way to do that. There’s nothing to download, no new registration required, and you can use an interface you’re already familiar with: chat."

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