Google is looking to make it easier to build chatbots for Hangouts Chat, thanks to an integration with its Dialogflow conversational AI platform.
Google launched Hangouts Chat early last year, a chat-based collaboration tool that replaces the Hangouts app for G Suite customers, of which there are are now more than 5 million, according to Google’s latest stats.
As announced last week, developers can now build chatbots for Hangouts Chat using Dialogflow – Google’s machine learning-based development suite that enables the creation of natural language processing (NLP) and natural language understanding (NLU) apps that mimic human interactions.
Dialogflow is used to create bots for Google Assistant with a simple interface to add training phrases and responses; a range of companies has created chatbots for internal and external use, including retailer Uniqlo and real estate management firm JLL. The latter recently unveiled its JiLL digital assistant based on Dialogflow to help workers schedule meetings and find desk space.
As with Slack, Microsoft Teams and others, chatbots are a popular way to ask questions and retrieve information from third-party tools without switching between applications. Google has provided an API for developers to integrate with Hangouts Chat since its launch, with Salesforce, Trello and Jira among those available.
By bringing Dialogflow to Hangouts Chat, Google wants to simplify the process of creating natural language bots users can interact with.
“With Dialogflow, you can create a natural-sounding conversational UI with just a few clicks,” said Jon Harmer, product manager, Google Cloud, in a blog post. “Because Dialogflow includes built-in Natural Language Understanding (NLU), your bot can quickly understand and respond to user messages.”
Developers can make their Dialogflow bots available for use in Google’s team collaboration app via the Hangouts Chat Integrations page, where they can install a bot on their own account to test in the application.
In addition, a new Hubot adapter has been introduced, allowing developers to bring Hubot bots into Hangouts Chat. A chatbot catalog is also on its way to improve discoverability as the number of bots grows. That catalog will be available in the “coming months,” Google said.
"Google continues to aggressively move to enable intelligent chatbots and natural voice capabilities to add value and remove mundane steps in communications and collaboration,” said Wayne Kurtzman, a research director at IDC. “Eventually this will become an expected feature, as it is on our phones and at home today.”
Google recently announced that Hangouts Chat will be incorporated into Gmail, letting users access the team collaboration without leaving the email client.