When Facebook launched its chatbot platform three months ago, the immediate hype was soon burst by a series of articles about how useless the first wave of bots were.

But slowly and surely, a massive wave of tens of thousands of developers and bigger companies have hatched bots that actually do real, meaningful things — from getting health tips from doctors, to getting personalized help with travel plans. We’ve been covering the news so far on our bots channel. At next week’s MobileBeat 2016 event on July 12-13, we’ll showcase a critical mass of bot activity. Once and for, it’ll prove that bots are coming in a big way. There’s no turning back now. Bottom line: Companies have to figure out what their bot strategy is.

And this includes not only text-based bots on Facebook, but voice-based bots on platforms like Amazon and Siri.

Let’s start with Facebook’s initial launch partners in April. There were many — including players like Shopify, Expedia, and Fandango. But most of them didn’t actually have live bots ready to go when Facebook launched the platform. Over the past three months, though, they’ve been working away on their bots, and we’ll be showcasing several of them at MobileBeat 2016, some for the first time.

At MobileBeat, we’ll also see one of the world’s largest pizza chains and one of the nation’s top grocery chains launch their bot strategies. We’ll hear from Wingstop, the chicken-wing restaurant chain, the first quick-service restaurant company to launch a bot on Facebook (Burger King originally said it was going to launch a bot, but hasn’t done so yet. And while Taco Bell launched a bot, it was solely on Slack). A leading national ticket-selling company will also launch its bot strategy at MobileBeat.

MZ CEO Gabe Leydon will demo a bot technology for New Zealand's transportation system

Above: MZ CEO Gabe Leydon will demo a bot technology for New Zealand’s transportation system.

And we’ll see the first demo of a bot that runs a country’s public transportation system.

The list of new announcements at the event is too long to cover completely here, and we’re keeping many of them stealth until the event to respect companies’ launch plans. We’ll see new bots helping consumers and professionals do things in all sorts of areas: financial services, CRM, health, accounting, and travel industries. We’ll also see a host of new bot service provider companies: One offers end-to-end analytics for bots, another provides a Mailchimp-like service but for bots (cooler than it sounds, because it’s discovered a hyperpersonalized feature on Facebook), and several others offer robust and visually pleasing enterprise bots, including one that integrates nicely with Slack.

Finally, through deep-dive sessions, we’ll learn how brands and businesses are dealing with all the other important needs around bots, like customer service, when and when not to use natural language, the importance of personality, how to monetize (we’ll have one of the first big bot ad-monetization networks, Samba, on hand), how to do attribution, multivariate testing, design best practices, and how and when to integrate A.I.

The hottest area, by far, is travel – and that’s going to be reflected at MobileBeat 2016. Almost every major travel company will be represented at the event, including Priceline/Booking.com, Expedia, Hipmunk, AirBnB, TripAdvisor Trivago, and at least two new bot companies that are launching services at MobileBeat for the first time. For too long, travel companies have had to rely on Google for their leads. Google’s search engine is where most people type in their travel plans, and travel companies have found few alternatives — until now. With billions of consumers now spending more time in chat apps like Messenger, Whatsapp, Kik, and Line, travel companies are eager to engage them directly on those platforms through bots.

Wingstop launches bot

Above: Wingstop’s bot.

 

Finally, we’ll see how voice, visual, and text conversational interfaces are all emerging quickly — and how some fast-moving companies like Wingstop plan to use any format that that their customers find most useful. Facebook boasts that tens of thousands of developers are building bots on Facebook Messenger, and that it already has 11,000 bots live — all within three months of launch. However, the voice conversational interface may be just as hot. Amazon’s Alexa has emerged from nowhere just a year and a half ago, and Amazon says tens of thousands of developers are working on the platform. Indeed, MobileBeat 2016 will be the first time that Amazon’s Rohit Prasad, vice president of Machine Learning for Alexa and Speech, will be presenting remotely — a sign that Amazon is starting to speak up about its prowess in natural language understanding.

If all that isn’t enough to make you want to come to MobileBeat, I don’t know what will. We’re tapping into all this developer activity by also hosting the first international botathon. Below is an updated agenda of the event. This is a pivotal time in technology, and I’m personally as excited as I’ve been about the state of innovation in mobile. Hope you are too. See you there!

Stay abreast of the latest news on bots, messaging, and A.I. from MobileBeat 2016. Read our coverage here.

MobileBeat Day 1 (July 12)

8:30 AM – 9:30 AM

Registration

9:30-9:45 AM

Opening Remarks: Back to the Future
The return of the bot craze, and why it’s going to be bigger than ever. Matt Marshall introduces event and introduces Robert Hoffner (otherwise known as the “Botfather”) for a few remarks about how he built the bot phenom ActiveBuddy 16 years ago — and why it died.

Matt Marshall (VentureBeat) & Robert ‘The Botfather’ Hoffer

9:45-10:05 AM

Opening Keynote: A Bot to Run a Country
Machine Zone, which built one of the world’s most successful mobile games, is taking its many-to-many real time technology, and building technology that runs the entire New Zealand transportation system. And it aims to do more. Included on top is a bot that allows users and public officials to make decisions more efficientl

Gabe Leydon, CEO (Machine Zone)

Moderator: Matt Marshall, Founder (VentureBeat)

10:05-10:25 AM

The commerce vision
A pathbreaker in forging the vision for commerce in massive chat apps has been Kik, the company that has generated scores of millions of users among Millennials. We talk with Kik’s leading business executives about where trends are going in 2016 and 2017.

Josh Jacobs, President (Kik)

Modertator: Veronica Belmont, Host / Writer / Producer “Dear Veronica” (Engadget)

10:25-10:35 AM

The state of Conversational Commerce, from the person who coined the term
Chris Messina, the technology evangelist who now works for Uber, but who created the hashtag, and who who coined the term “Conversational Commerce” in a column earlier this year, provides a mid-year update on bots, their potential, how they’ve emerged, what has worked, and what hasn’t.

Chris Messina, Developer Experience Lead (Uber )

10:35-11:05 AM

Networking Break
(Here’s your first chance to get to mix and mingle with your peers.)

11:05-11:35 AM

Breakout Session: Analytics First, Action Second
A deep dive into best practices for how to track engagement and other success variables within conversational UI, and how to feed information back into making a better product overall.

Peter Reinhardt, CEO (Segment); Sean Reagan, Head of Product Marketing (Atlassian’s JIRA, Bitbucket, Dev Tools, and HipChat); Omar Siddiqui, CEO (Sequel); Chris Klotzbach, Product Marketing (Yahoo)

Modertator: Jon Cifuentes

11:05-11:35 AM

Breakout Session: Breaking down NLP
Everyone assumes NLP is perfect, now that Siri and Google Voice have made it seem everything is understandable. But NLP is actually struggling to keep up with expectations. Here’s how to apply NLP in your organization today. Learn from the experts.

Ilya Gelfenbeyn, CEO (api.ai); John Jackson VP, FTC Strategy (FedEx); Katie McMahon, VP and General Manager, SoundHound; Andrew Poon, Product Manager (Yahoo)

Moderator: Navid Hadzaad, CEO (Angel.Ai)

11:35-12:50 PM

Lunch & Expo
(Head to the Expo to grab a drink, some tasty eats, and check-out the latest tech and tools to help your business grow.)

12:50-1:25 PM

Lightning Rounds: Shiny New Bots
Six new companies launch to showcase how they’re disrupting industries with their new, flexible, personable bots.

Speaker names will be revealed day of the event!

1:25- 2:00 PM

Lightning Rounds: Brands with Bot Traction
Six brands step up to talk about their new bot strategies, or lessons learned with existing strategies.

Speaker names will be revealed day of the event!

2:00 PM

Networking Break

2:30-3:00 PM

Breakout Session: Conversational UI Design: Functional vs. Witty
The design of conversational UI needs to be simple and personalized. But beyond that, best practices are still up in the air. When do you go with a functional, straightforward text bot, when do you go with buttons, and when do you lead with personality? And when do you hand off to humans? Experts debate the future of smart bot design.

Scott Jones, VP, User Experience and Design (Expedia); Anne-Sophie Liduena, VP, Product (Booking.com); Dmitrii Dumik, CEO (Chatfuel); Lauren Kunze, CEO (Pandorabots)

Moderator: Robert “The Botfather” Hoffer

2:30-3:00 PM

Workshop: Breaking Down The Leading Tools in Artificial Intelligence
We’ll hear a blitz of advice about the richest areas of applied artificial intelligence today.

Tomer Cohen, Head of Content, Search & Discovery Products (LinkedIn); Travis Brooks, Search & Data Science Product Manager (Yelp); Neil Jacobstein, SU’s Artificial Intelligence & Robotics Chair (Singularity University)

Moderator: Rich Wong, Partner (Accel Partners)

3:00 PM

Break

3:10-3:40 PM

Breakout Session: Marketing in an Era of Predictive Technology, AI and Bots
A host of new technologies are converging to take marketing to the next level, right at the time when conversational UI and other new channels are pulling billions of users into modes where they expect a new kind of personalized, and more native marketing.

Baron Concors, Global Chief Digital Officer (Pizza Hut); Ashley Blackmon, VP, Marketing (Zillow)

Moderator: Michael Trapani, Product Marketing Manager (IBM)

3:10-3:40 PM

Workshop: Commerce Tools
We hear from platform players, brands and service providers about the best techniques to monetize with in conversational UI.

Thomas Wrobel, Head of Performance Marketing (Trivago); Andy Ulery, Founder (Samba); Adam Goldstein, CEO (Hipmunk)

Moderator: Stewart Rogers, Director of Marketing Technology (VentureBeat)

3:40-4:10 PM

Networking Break

4:10-4:30 PM

The New Suggestion-Based Economy
Google’s Director of Apps and Games Business Development, Purnima Kochikar will talk about the move away from the search-based economy to a suggestion-based economy, where conversational UI, instant apps, and mobile web are at the core of what’s to come. In this 1:1 with Matt Marshall, Purnima will share how the A.I. and machine learning that is going into products like conversational UIs, Home and competitive products is the result of 17 years of search history from the whole world. Purnima and Matt will also discuss how the customer’s journey was stolen away from the traditional app, but where they are going next and what opportunities lies within the customer’s next move in this new world of bots.

Purnima Kochikar, Director, Apps and Games Business Development (Google Play)

Moderator: Matt Marshall, Founder (VentureBeat)

4:30-4:50 PM

Closing Keynote: Ambitious Bots for Business
If Facebook has won the most attention as a platform for consumer-oriented bots, there’s no question that Slack has so far become the leader for business-oriented bots. We talk with the lead Slack platform product executive about what’s working on Slack, and what’s coming next.

Jason Shellen, Head of Product (Slack)

Moderator: Blaise Zerega, Editor-in-Chief (VentureBeat)

5:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Village Mob Party
We’re finishing out the night with a big, blow-out party complete with lights, music, food, and maybe even a few surprises. Check out the “Village Mob Party” tab for more info!

MobileBeat Day 2 (July 13)

8:30 AM – 5:00 PM

Registration

9:35-9:55 AM

Opening Keynote: The Sexiest Opportunities in AI
Hear from Rohit Prasad, leader of ‘Alexa’ for Amazon, on what are exactly the most promising areas to apply artificial intelligence in business today.

Rohit Prasad, VP, Alexa Machine Learning and Speech (Amazon)

Moderator: Matt Marshall, Founder (VentureBeat)

9:55-10:15 AM

Perspective: It Should Be About Humans, Not Bots
… at least in the leisure industry, and at most certainly and unabashedly for a fast-growing company like AirBnB, which prides itself on nurturing authentic relationships between travelers and hosts.

Joe Zadeh, VP Product (Airbnb)

Moderator: Blaise Zerega, Editor-in-Chief (VentureBeat)

10:15-10:45 AM

Networking Break

10:45-11:15 AM

Breakout Session: Achieving the “Commerce” in Conversational Commerce
In 2015, Uber’s Chris Messina coined the term “conversational commerce” to describe the coming trend of business-to-consumer interaction withi chat apps. However, commerce has so far been conspicuously absent for the most part, as consumers and brands figure out the rules of engagement. Here’s why commerce is going to be big.

Seth Rosenberg, Product Manager (Facebook Messenger); Stacy Peterson, CIO, (Wingstop); Mark Young, SVP, Business Strategy (Fandango); Robert Stephens, Co-Founder (Assi.st)

Moderator: Stewart Rogers, Director, Marketing Technology (VentureBeat)

10:45-11:15 AM

Breakout Session: The Rise of the Bot Killer App: Customer Support
AI and conversational UI is perfect for customer support, and it’s one area that is already thriving, even as things like monetization or advertising lag behind. Come here from the experts who are engaging customers, retaining them, and amazing them with excellent customer service.

Richard Smullen, CEO (PypeStream), Mikhail Naumov, President, CSO (DigitalGenius), Jason Smale, Director, Product Strategy (Zendesk)

Moderator: Kristina Shen, VP (Bessemer Venture Partners)

11:15-11:25 AM

Break

11:25-11:55 PM

Breakout Session: What’s the Role of an App in a Bot Driven World
Marketers and brands will start using apps differently, now that conversational UI has emerged with powerful immediacy and personalization. But apps still offer many advantages, and for marketers, and it’s critical to be clear what they are. How will marketers change their strategies, and how will they decide what resources to devote to apps versus bots?

Michael Katz, CEO (mparticle); Jason Sinnarajah, VP, Business Development (Weather.com); Adam Medros, SVP, Global Product (TripAdvisor); Mike Ghafferty, CEO (Yelp)

Moderator: Blaise Zerega, Editor-in-Chief (VentureBeat)

11:55-12:55 PM

Lunch & Expo
(Head to the 3rd floor to grab a drink, some tasty eats, and check-out the latest tech and tools to help your business grow.)

12:55 -1:15 PM

How AI and APIs Can Transform Your Customer Experience, and Extending Your Platform Too
We talk with an executive of a major brand, about how APIs and AI can take your app anwhere, or bring other apps into yours — and why this is changing the way apps are thought about. In fact, the app is disappearing, and a user-controlled experience of assisted intelligence is appearing.

Brendan O’Driscoll, Bot Lead (Spotify)

Moderator: Matt Marshall, Founder (VentureBeat)

12:55 -1:15 PM

Future of apps versus bots as a distribution channel
We discuss the future of the app, with the leader of the fast-growing almost-Unicorn: food delivery company, Doordash.

Tony Xu, Founder & CEO (DoorDash)

Moderator: Sarah Guo, Investor (Greylock)

1:15-1:25 PM

Break

1:25-1:45 PM

International Perspective
Conversational UI and commerce has exploded in China, and has expanded throughout the world. We take a look at one of India’s new commerce giants, and discuss how conversational UI is driving that business’ growth.

Peeyush Ranjan, CTO (Flipkart)

Moderator: Blaise Zerega, Editor-in-Chief (VentureBeat)

1:45-2:25 PM

Lightning Round: The Bot Makers
Hear new announcements and presentations of some of the leading companies that make bots for others.

Speakers will be announced the day of the event!

2:25-2:55PM

Networking Break

2:55-3:25 PM

The Future of Commerce
The best way to delight consumers is to make commerce super intelligent — to know where they are, what service they’re using, and to offer them discounts or other deals that appeal to them according to the mode they’re in, whether they are in a car ride, booking a hotel, or ordering food.

Holger Luedorf, SVP, Business Development (Postmates); Nichele Lindstrom, Director, Digital Marketing (Whole Foods Market)

Moderator: Terry Angelos, CEO Trialpay (Visa Commerce Network)

2:55-3:25 PM

Enterprise Bots: A Different Breed?
A host of legacy providers have created bot-like functionality for big businesses for some time. But super lightweight bots being created for the Slack ecosystem, and for bot platforms like Facebook that haven’t been considered enterprise players until now, are threatening to disrupt enterprise companies as we know them.

Andrew Busey, Co-Founder (Conversable); Amir Shevat, Director, Developer Relations (Slack)

Moderator: Peter Yared, CEO (Sapho)

3:25-3:35 PM

Break

3:35-4:05 PM

Making Payments Frictionless
An executive of a leading online payments company discusses the future of payments with a leading consumer platform company, Pinterest.

Ankur Arya, General Manager, Mobile (Braintree); Michel Yamartino, Head of Commerce (Pinterest)

4:05-4:35 PM

Lightning Rounds: New Shiny Bots (Part II)
Six new companies launch to showcase how they’re disrupting industries with their new, flexible, personable bots.

Speakers will be revealed the day of the event!

4:35-4:55 PM

Closing Keynote: Entertainment and Personality Bots
Several bot making companies, and even Google, are working hard on bot software that allow people to create bots that emulate their personality, or otherwise serve as personal assistants to them, to help interact with the outside world, and make their lives more efficient. Here we discuss the early experiments of personality bots, including one for tech evangelist, Chris Messina of Uber, and one for American rapper, and music producer, Redfoo of LMAFO by bot creator, Esther Crawford.

Redfoo; Rapper, Dancer, Record Producer, & DJ (LMFAO); Esther Crawford, CEO (Olabot)

Moderator: Matt Marshall, Founder (VentureBeat)

4:55-6:00 PM

Happy Hour & Expo
(Chat, unwind and have some drinks and snacks on us. Network with your peers and cheers to another great MobileBeat!)