VentureBeat’s international botathon got underway this morning with more than 200 teams competing in a hackathon for chatbots. Believed to be the first of its kind, the competition is taking place in San Francisco, New York, Melbourne, Tel Aviv, and via online participation for teams outside these metro areas.

Teams began their work today at 9:00 a.m. (local time) and will work on their bots throughout the weekend, stopping at 5:00 p.m. (local time). Participants have been tasked with creating a chatbot that will be judged on the basis of four criteria:

  • Execution – How well was it built?
  • Innovation – Is it creative and novel?
  • Market potential – Does it have business potential?
  • Usability – Is it easy to use?

Four regional finalists and up to two online finalists will be selected by a local team of experts on Sunday evening . Finalists will be invited to present their bots at MobileBeat 2016, which is taking place July 12-13 in San Francisco. There, a Who’s Who of the bot community — representatives from Amazon, Facebook, Kik, Google, and Slack, plus dozens of top developers and startups, will interact with these weekend wonder bots.

Three category winners will be announced on stage on July 13, as chosen by a panel of judges, by MobileBeat attendees, and by online voters. MobileBeat 2016’s distinguished judges are Robert Hoffer (aka “The Botfather”), Phil Libin of General Catalyst, and Alfred Lin of Sequoia Capital.

This photo shows the MobileBeat 2016 Botathon Judges: Robert Hoffer (aka 'The Botfather'), Phil Libin (General Catalyst), Alfred Lin (Seqouia).

Above: MobileBeat 2016 Botathon Judges: Robert Hoffer (aka ‘The Botfather’), Phil Libin (General Catalyst), Alfred Lin (Sequoia).

Image Credit: Robert Hoffer, General Catalyst, Seqouia

MobileBeat 2016 will explore the paradigm shift toward artificial intelligence and conversational user interfaces that is underway. Fittingly, the VentureBeat botathon aims to foster innovation by sponsoring a weekend of developer creativity across the globe and by recognizing those creations.

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