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A chatbot may be your new best friend.

By Kia Kokalitcheva
December 22, 2015

In a twist possible only in Silicon Valley, the latest craze in mobile messaging are apps that let people talk to…well, robots.

Google is the latest company to try building one such app, according to a Wall Street Journal report that cites anonymous sources. The upcoming app will reportedly include chatbots, which are software programs that interact with users by answering their questions and finding information they request.

It’s unclear when Google plans to introduce the new service or its name. But the strategy will likely mimic that of other companies like workplace chat tool Slack, which lets outside developers build specialized chatbots for the app, according to the Journal.

Google executive Nick Fox has been heading the project for at least a year. In October, he is said to have unsuccessfully tried to acquire 200 Labs, a marketplace for chatbots for messaging app Telegram.

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One thing is clear: the chat-based personal assistant apps are an increasingly buzzy trend, with companies like Facebook FB , Apple AAPL , and Microsoft MSFT all working on variations. The idea is to help people get the information they want quickly by messaging automated helpers.

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However, Google GOOG already has messaging apps for chatting with others. It also has powerful artificial intelligence-based interface for its search engine and other apps: Google Now on Tap. The service upgrade, which the company unveiled at its annual developer conference in San Francisco in May, lets users give voice commands to ask for more information about a song they’re listening to on their smartphone and restaurants mentioned in an email in their Gmail inbox.

 

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