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This article was published on April 28, 2016

Turns out Poncho is a really ambitious weather cat bot

Turns out Poncho is a really ambitious weather cat bot
Martin Bryant
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Martin Bryant

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Martin Bryant is founder of Big Revolution, where he helps tech companies refine their proposition and positioning, and develops high-qualit Martin Bryant is founder of Big Revolution, where he helps tech companies refine their proposition and positioning, and develops high-quality, compelling content for them. He previously served in several roles at TNW, including Editor-in-Chief. He left the company in April 2016 for pastures new.

When Facebook recently announced bots for Messenger, one of the most talked-about examples was Poncho, the cat that tells you the weather forecast.

While some found him to be frustratinglybad at telling you whether to expect rain or shine, a group of investors led by Lerer Hippeau Ventures has put $2 million seed funding into Poncho to help him become a better weather cat.

Poncho is currently available via SMS, email, Slack and Facebook Messenger, but the Betaworks-based company has a bigger mission; to understand how best to deliver ‘thin content’ via chat and notifications platforms.

The hype around conversational interfaces lately has been accompanied by a sense of disillusionment with what Facebook Messenger bots can really do right now. Poncho CEO Sam Mandel is philosophical about the reaction.

“The positive and negative attention around the bot explosion is a reminder of how much conversational interfaces change the UI paradigm. Since the launch of graphical interfaces, we have seen steady progress and increased sophistication, with today’s apps at the top of the food chain in that regard,” Mandel says.

“Chat interfaces, and particularly bots, sometimes feel like starting over. But conversation is the most fundamental way humans communicate, and with all the activity in the space progress will be astonishing in the coming months, particularly as natural language processing and artificial intelligence are brought to bear on focused problems.”

He may have limited skills as a meteorologist right now, but Poncho wants to be your best weather-forecasting pal. And the humans behind him want to help change our relationship with information.

“Ultimately, all of the companies that are successful in this space are going to revolutionize how people get and interact with content,” says Mandel.