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Yahoo’s Captain is a family assistant that lives in your messaging app

might be on the verge of being sold to Verizon for a king’s ransom, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t stopped making online tools of questionable usefulness. Its latest effort, Captain, is a chatbot that “streamlines family logistics,” or in simple terms: it keeps you and your family in sync.

You don’t need to download
an app or install anything to use it. To get started, text “Hi” to CAPTAIN (773-786), and you’ll get a response from a cheerful bot ready to help you create a shopping list and set reminders.

Starting a list is easy enough. You need only type something like, “Add milk, bananas, and eggs,” and Captain will create a shopping list with those items added to it. Typing “Show list” will display the contents of it, and removing an item is as simple as saying “Remove item 2” or “Remove eggs.” Beyond that, you can set reminders for things just by writing, “Remind me at 2 to pick up Gabe from school.” (It’s smart enough to know that probably means 2 in the afternoon.)

captain chatbot Greenbot

The unique feature here is that you can create a group of people that can interact with the list and set reminders. However, the process isn’t all that simple. When you ask Captain to add a person to your group it will respond with a link and a code, which you then need to manually send to the other person. They will in turn need to send a text to Captain with that code and go through the same sign-up process. Once that’s all done, you’ll both be able to ask captain to set reminders for yourselves or each other, and add items to the list. Any changes are communicated to people, and you can also chat with them directly inside the Captain conversation by typing the @ symbol before their name.

Captain is one of the few bots to work over SMS, so you won’t need to sign up for a specific service like Facebook Messenger to use it (though texting rates will apply where applicable). However, does note that Sprint customers will need to unblock shortened links to begin the process.

Captain’s hook: Chatbots are designed to make our lives easier by cutting down on the time we need to spend interacting with people, but it feels cold when it comes to our family. There are any number of ways to coordinate our schedules and shopping with our children and spouses, and Captain doesn’t appear to make any of it all that much easier. You still have to remember to use it, so why not just eliminate the middleman and text your wife directly? And I’m also a little leery of trusting Yahoo with personal information after several rounds of breaches. Sorry, Captain, but I’ll steer my own ship. 

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