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Messaging app Kik just launched a bot store

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Artificial intelligence is invading the chat app

Kik

Today, messaging app Kik announced a new bot store to urge users and developers alike to embrace the trendy new form of artificial intelligence-powered software. The company has offered bots in its chat app in the past, which you can converse with over text and use to perform basic web tasks. But now Kik will feature 16 new bots made with a list of partners, including Funny Or Die, The Weather Channel, and Vine, to give users a quick and easy way to pull information, find funny GIFs, get makeup tips, and play games.

Kik is also letting developers create their own bots to offer in Kik's Bot Shop, as it's called. The company will approve each one before it's available in the store, and users can locate new bots by tapping on "Find People" in Kik's search bar. You can also check out Kik bots on the web. (Strangely enough, Kik’s bot API is related to a rather heated Javascript-related dustup in the open source community.)

Bots represent one of the next big shifts in technology

"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."

As The Verge pointed out in January, bots represent one of the next big shifts in technology. People are downloading fewer apps, and the apps they do use are increasingly for chatting with friends. Now, thanks to advancements in natural language processing, smarter bots that understand text are being baked directly into the most popular communication channels on mobile and the web. Without the need to mimic human qualities, like Siri or Cortana, this type of software can still be at our beck and call for tasks like ordering food, shopping online, and automating our conversations.

Facebook M and Alexa are shaping up to be two huge bot platforms

Facebook's M assistant, which lives inside Facebook Messenger, and Amazon's Alexa voice assistant are emblematic of this trend. Facebook is widely expected to launch a bot shop of its own at its annual F8 developers conference next week. Microsoft is getting involved as well. At its Build developer conference last week, the company announced a new bot toolkit for developers and showcased a way for Skype bots to work together with its Cortana assistant.

So Kik has some serious competition in the impending bot battle. The company only counts 275 million registered users, and does not disclose how many of those users open the app on a monthly basis. That said, Kik has beat Facebook and other tech giants to the punch with a bot store of its own. Whether that helps Kik's position in the chat app market — or just remains a neat function for its existing users — is up to the bots and how useful they really are.