VentureBeat’s Bots Channel tracks the most important news and analysis from the exploding fields of bots and messaging. Each week, we select the top stories and present them in in our free weekly newsletter, BotBeat. We include news stories by VentureBeat staff, guest articles from leading figures in the bots community, and posts from a wide variety of other outlets. You can subscribe to our BotBeat newsletter to receive this information in your inbox every Thursday.

Here’s this week’s newsletter:

Season’s Greetings!

The holiday season is upon us and, fortunately, there’s a bot for that. Gift-giving got you frazzled? There are plenty of bots that can take the stress out of shopping. Need some ideas for decorating? Try the DIY bot. And if you’re counting down the days until Christmas, well, there’s Rudolf Adventson.

And just in time for the holidays, the Amazon Echo went out of stock for online sales showing how hot the market for voice-activated intelligent assistants will become. We’ll be watching in 2017 as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft battle to be your everything.

Please watch for next week’s newsletter, where we’ll review the top bots stories of 2016.

As always, please send news tips to Khari Johnson and guest post submissions to John Brandon. Be sure to visit our Bots Channel for comprehensive news on bots and messaging.

Wishing you and yours happy holidays,

— Blaise Zerega
Editor in Chief

P.S. We hope you enjoy this video of Facebook’s Mikhail Larionov presenting “The Today and Tomorrow of Messenger Platform” at ChatbotConf 2016 in Vienna, Austria.

From the Bots Channel

Anthony Hopkins and Jeffrey Wright in Westworld.

HBO’s Westworld artificial intelligence, then and now

Much as they are today, people were enthralled by artificial intelligence in 1973 — the year Michael Crichton released the film Westworld. The film became MGM’s biggest box office hit of the year, yet launched the same year as the first AI winter: a massive event of depleted AI resources, dashed expectations, and dwindling interest over the ensuing […]

Read the full story

Let it Snow DIY bot scrabble letters

5 bots to try this week: GanePay, INSDRbot, Trivia Blast, DIY Bot, and Ainstein

If you’ve got a Charlie Brown Christmas tree in need of some love and decoration, then check out DIY Bot for some last-minute ornament ideas. The projects range from the brilliantly easy, like configuring Scrabble tiles into festive messages (pictured above), to more complex ones, like a reindeer and Christmas tree inside a bottle. Same basic idea […]

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Roadblocks for chatbots

3 roadblocks chatbots face

While we think of them as the latest thing in tech, conversational interfaces have been around for quite some time. From Cleverbot and Smarter Child to labyrinthine phone trees (“say REPRESENTATIVE”), we have been trying for years to build technology that mimics how we interact with humans. Recent advances have positioned these tools for substantial […]

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harman kardon cortana assistant speaker

Microsoft Cortana is about to become your all-purpose productivity bot

Microsoft Cortana has been playing catch-up with Siri and the Google Assistant, but that’s about to change. The company Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded in 1975 has made no secret of the fact that it intends to become an AI powerhouse. Many of the recent changes in Microsoft Office have been related to productivity automation. […]

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A glowing Microsoft logo at the Microsoft store

What Google, Microsoft, and Amazon did this week in the race to be everyone’s favorite virtual assistant

Take a step back for a look at the big picture, and it’s clear that 2016 was a remarkable year for bots and virtual assistants. Within the span of a few months this spring, Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft all made plans to grow bot ecosystems and each invited developers to build bots or virtual assistant […]

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A collection of Amazon devices powered by Alexa. From left to right: Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, and Amazon Echo.

6 ways to entertain yourself with Amazon Echo

Sometimes you go out hard and party like the cool kids. Other times, your Saturday night plans are … less than spectacular. For times like those, here are the 6 best ways to get entertainment out of your Amazon Echo when you’re bored and lonely, or just sick of other people. After all, your friends may judge […]

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Related coverage

 

 

IBM Wants To Build AI That Isn’t Socially Awkward

Big Blue says its latest Watson tech enables chatbots, robots, and even smart cars and houses that can understand and relate to humans. (via Fast Company)

Read the full story

Chatbots And VR Lead This Season’s Top Tech Trends In Retail

Technology is playing an ever-important role in the shopping side of the holiday season. Logistics aside, which is of course critical at this time of year, tech is also proving increasingly key from an experiential and a customer service perspective both online and offline. Leading that charge for 2016 are virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI). (via Forbes)

Read the full story

Zuckerberg Explains How He Built ‘Jarvis’, The Artificial Intelligence That Runs His Home

Mark Zuckerberg on Monday introduced the world to “Jarvis”, an artificial intelligence system the Facebook chief created in his spare time, which can choose and play music, turn on lights, and recognise visitors, deciding whether to open the front door. (via India Times)

Read the full story

The Pint-Sized Supercomputer That Companies Are Scrambling to Get

To companies grappling with complex data projects powered by artificial intelligence, a system that Nvidia calls an “AI supercomputer in a box” is a welcome development. (via MIT Technology Review)

Read the full story

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