How a Bot Convinced Me to Stop Buying Junk on Amazon


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How a Bot Convinced Me to Stop Buying Junk on Amazon

Facebook Messenger bot MyKai hooks into your bank account to help you better understanding your spend habits.

Six thousand dollars?!

Last week, while testing out a new bot called MyKai, I discovered—maybe "realized" is the better word here—that I had spent a small fortune on Amazon in 2015. Sure, I remember a lot of packages showing up that year, but I had never taken the time to assess exactly how much damage my apparent addiction to Kindle ebooks, PS4 games, and K-Cups had done to my wallet.

Is that merely an example of my cavalier attitude toward online shopping? Perhaps! More than that, however, the episode showed me the potential for banking bots like MyKai, which lives inside messaging apps like Facebook Messenger (where I used it), Slack, and SMS text messages, letting users get a better handle of their finances with the same interface that they use to make weekend plans with their friends.


"Our mission was to show the world that you can actually have a smart bot in banking that can help you understand your finances in a better way," Zor Gorelov, the CEO of MyKai parent company Kasisto, told Motherboard, "and be accessible to you anytime and anywhere on any platform."

MyKai, which is free for consumers (Kasisto plans to sell a more complex version to financial institutions), launches on Tuesday morning, and is part of a new wave of chat bots that aim to replace familiar computing interfaces, like dedicated apps or standalone websites, for common activities like checking the weather and getting the latest headlines. The big sell, according to proponents of the tech, is that it's much easier to hop into Facebook Messenger and ask something like, "How much did I spend on Amazon in 2015?" than it is to navigate your bank's Byzantine website to find that same information. "With MyKai you can ask, 'Hey, what was my largest food transaction last year?'" said Gorelov. "You can't really don't that online, mobile, or anywhere else. You can only do that with conversation."

In the week or so that I had access to MyKai before it launched, I asked it a battery of questions in order to test its accuracy and versatility. While the results were overall positive, there's still clear room for improvement.

For example, in addition to helping me recognize my once near-crippling addiction to Amazon's "Buy With One Click," I learned that I spent $8.00 on Uber in 2014, $176.41 in 2015, and $550.90 so far in 2016 (though a good chunk of that spent in Las Vegas during CES in January). What MyKai couldn't do was add all those up for me: Ask it "How much did I spend on Uber in 2015 and 2016 combined?" only returned the $176.41 from 2015. And while MyKai was able to tell m that I've (so far) spent $76 on Steam this month, it only did so after I phrased my question like, "How much did I spend on steamgames this month?"


That's not exactly conversational, no, but does provide insight that I otherwise would have been without.

MyKai also extends beyond looking up your transaction history by hooking into Venmo, the digital payment service. I surprised one of my friends on Monday by sending him $1 after I told the MyKai bot "Pay Brian Papa $1."

"Yeah I got a Venom notification," he later told me. "VENMO - that is a great autocorrect though."

To Gorelov, whether or not MyKai proves to be successful with the younger users that his company is targeting is almost besides the point. Rather, the bot is merely representative of where computing is heading in the future.

"Whether it's messaging platforms or the internet of things, we really believe that the conversation is it," said Gorelov. "There is no more natural way of interacting with computers."