I think it’s fair to say that chatbots are both a gimmick and an emerging innovation. Chatbots are a gimmick in that good chatbots, such as Loebner Prize winners, are extremely theatrical in nature, or involve a lot of mind games, which hardcore artificial intelligence researchers qualify as gimmickery. On the other hand, with the recent opening of Facebook Messenger to automation in the form of “chat apps”, so called “chatbots” are making significant inroads into consumer marketing.
There can be little doubt that automation of one form or another is the way of the future, not to mention conversational interfaces in general; however, there is also a lot of “grasping at straws”, or desperation for the next big thing at the moment around so called “artificial intelligence”, as well as a lot of hype surrounding Facebook Messenger chatbots in particular, which may well die down and pass into the annuls of crazes and fads.
See also my Quora answers to: