From call centres to stopping your drinks, are chatbots the future?

Talking to a real person when you go to book an airfare or arrange insurance could soon be a thing of the past.

Big companies are already starting to replace call centres with chatbots, which are getting smarter by the day.

One such bot is the Sober Self Bot, which will remind you to stop drinking and go home.

Launched by responsible drinking campaign Cheers, you tell the Facebook Messenger-run chatbot what time you should go home, and later - if you keep your promise - Uber will discount your fare.

"What if I chose not to go home then? Well, you will get a couple of reminders to see if you are still keen, but if you chose not to, you are not going to get nagged," Cheers spokesperson Matt Claridge told Newshub.

"But you will get a message in the morning asking: 'How did things work out last night?'

"The partnership with Uber is about behaviour change really, and encouraging people to think a little bit differently about why they drink."

Businesses like Domino's Pizza are turning to chatbots as their first point of contact with customers, while Air New Zealand is trialling one called Oscar to recommend flights.

Digital agency Gladeye developed Solar City's chatbot Sunny. Instead of sending out a sales rep, Sunny can try and assess whether your home is suitable for solar panels.

"With a virtual customer service representative, the idea is to collect some initial information that might have been handled by a human quite inefficiently," Gladeye's Sam Brough told Newshub.

Most chatbots are very simple, but the way they are used is disrupting industries. An obvious one is call centres, but insurance is another one, where an American company is having an impact.

Lemonade Insurance does almost all its business through an app and a chatbot called AI Jim. It hit the headlines when the company paid out a simple lost jacket claim in just three seconds.

It's still early days for chatbots, but they are learning.

"So in the not-too-distant future they will be able to understand the subtleties and human emotion to the point where it will be indistinguishable from a conversation with a real person," Mr Brough said.