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Yahoo's new chatbot will nag your family for you

Yahoo's new chatbot will nag your family for you


When texting is easier than an app

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Photo: Yahoo

With a pending sale of its internet business to Verizon, Yahoo is undergoing one of the more tumultuous periods in its history. Yet somehow it still managed to put out one of the most useful piece of software it’s created in years. Called Captain, the product is an SMS-based digital assistant. It’s designed to use some lightweight artificial intelligence to help family members manage each other’s busy schedules.

AI without needing to download an app

Captain essentially acts as an intermediary between parents and their children, letting family members text instructions to one phone number that then takes care of the busy work. For instance, you can text Captain to remind your daughter that she has soccer practice at 3PM, or remind your significant other that they’re on the hook for taking your son to band practice after school. You can also manage group shopping lists. Getting started involves texting “hi” to Captain at the number 773-786.

The point here is to alleviate some of the burden around having to micromanage the lives of young kids or trying and failing to juggle 10 tasks at once. Captain is nowhere near as powerful as Amazon’s Alexa or the software living inside the Google Home smart speaker. But it is specific and focused product that lives inside a communication technology every phone has, which makes it useful for kids who may not yet own a smartphone. It also has the advantage of letting you spam your kids with text messages, which circumvents the hurdle of getting your 13-year-old to download an app they’ll never use and check its notifications.