Last weekend saw the return of the English Premier League. That meant a renewed search for the perfect mobile app to enable me to follow the top 20 English football clubs as they battle for 3 points and a Champions League qualification every weekend through to April next year.
But there’s no such a thing as a perfect app and as we’ve seen with the new Prisma-mimicking bot, bots can pretty much handle a lot of stuff these days. From hailing cabs to checking you in next time you’re taking a flight. So I headed over to Facebook’s Messenger app in search of a bot to help me follow something else, the ongoing Rio 2016 Olympics where team Kenya is really shining.
Thanks to the organisers’ strict rules, you just can’t decide to pass on a race and watch it later. Unless, of course, you have a DSTV Explora lying around and you let it record the same. There are no GIFs on Twitter, short videos on Facebook or hot news items on YouTube that can quench your thirst for Olympic-related content. This is all thanks to the International Olympic Committee acting like social media doesn’t exist as it overzealously enforces archaic broadcasting regulations.
After spending the last two mornings tired and totally worn out thanks to staying up until 4AM so that I could watch the main races (Usain Bolt’s cracker 100m dash and King David Rudisha’s glorious two-lap run), I was ready to just act normal and sleep when I needed to and only wake up in the morning to check on what transpired while I closed my eyes.
This morning, I woke up to 3 interesting notifications. Okay, one of those notifications was not any unique since I’ve been relying on it since day 1 of the Rio Olympics. I’ll be coming back to that in a moment.
The other two notifications were from Messenger. They all had one thing in common, they notified me that Kenya had won a third gold medal thanks to the efforts of Faith Kipyegon. One was from the aptly-named Rio 2016 bot while the other was from a the Score, a name some will be familiar with as the team behind the bot also develops a similarly-named popular app that I used previously to follow the EPL before settling on FotMob and the new all-inclusive official Premier League app.
I don’t know about you and whether you use bots on any of your chat apps. I use bots on Telegram and it’s very easy to discover bots over there. On Messenger? Not as easy. I use botlist.co to discover new bots since not every bot will hit headlines and be discovered from an article like this one.
You can check the Score and the Rio 2016 bot out through the embedded links. Once added to one’s Messenger, interaction is by way of chatting, as is the case with every other bot in a messaging app. It is here that one encounters the current limitations of bots first hand. Great and convenient they may be, bots will only respond to queries they’ve been programmed to respond to.
Here’s what happens when I bother the Rio 2016 bot with a rather long enquiry:
As you can see, the bot is clueless.That changes when I use just one keyword it’s been programmed to respond to:
Using the inbuilt menus to interact with the two bots is what brings about the best results.
Their biggest score is in the simplicity. In the end, you get the same result, i.e. viewing the medal standings and being notified when your nation picks up a medal, all without having to install an app on your mobile device that takes up extra space and consumes other resources like the battery since it has to continuously run in the background in order to alert you on time.
Since neither the Score nor the Rio 2016 bot can be used to schedule reminders for when races are on or comprehensive coverage of the Olympics, here’s where I bring back that other notification I received this morning. It’s Google. Google Search to be specific.
I posted this popular update on the Techweez Telegram channel (shameless plug: go and follow us) on the day the Olympics started: The 2016 Olympic games in Rio are upon us. There are so many ways you can use to follow what’s happening in ?? online. A few apps you need to install, some links for the livestream that you need to bookmark and so on. However, as always, Google’s got your back. On your smartphone, just do a Google search for “Olympic Games 2016” and see what happens when open in full the first result. No need for an app to see what events are on and each participating nation’s medal haul…
Since I usually take the same medicine I prescribe for others, Google has not disappointed. Google being, well, Google, it hasn’t disappointed. I get everything, from trending searches of athletes to news about the various events happening on top of the now usual stuff: medal standings and alerts every time Kenya bags a medal. What’s more, Google even lets you add a nice home screen shortcut to make it easy to access while fooling everyone else that it’s an app.
Of course, Facebook has its own news feed populated with as much content on the Olympics as possible to make up for the shortcomings of the Messenger bots in that regard.
I’ve seen the official Rio 2016 app being recommended to me on the Play Store. Upon checking out the rating and reviews, I decided against getting it. So far, I’ve not regretted my decision.