Burner, a service that generates temporary phone numbers
If you’ve ever wanted a text message conversation to simply go away, but still wanted to do it gracefully, there’s a new bot that will help do that for you.
Burner, which helps users create temporary phone numbers for various purposes, is today rolling out a new tool called Ghostbot. Whenever you hand out a temporary phone number that’s built through Burner — say, a number for a Craigslist encounter — you can automatically sic the bot on the conversation to automatically respond in such a way that it will try to wave off the person on the other side.
Users can have one or multiple Burner numbers, and they attach Ghostbot to one — which will populate a list of contacts that the user is texting with that Burner number. From there, it’s click-and-go. Whenever a contact that has Ghostbot enabled texts the user, it’ll create a canned non-committal response that will hopefully get the other person to go away based on the context of the text message. And if they don’t go away, worst case scenario, they realize they’re talking to a bot, CEO Greg Cohn said.
“The idea is to avoid a situation where you don’t want to have a confrontational conversation, but don’t want to go dark on them,” Cohn said. “Part 2 is the actual responses — various but scripted — and it’s not the case that we expect this bot to pass the turing test and fool the world into thinking its person.
The general idea is this will kind of handle a situation that’s casual and light and a cooling off period, but of course it’s possible to trip the bot up. The general idea is at some point, by the time people clue in it might be a bot, things have cooled off and the person has moved on.”
Burner worked with a third-party developer to build the bot, which uses a mix of natural language processing and some creative responses to, at a random interval, respond to a text message with a pretty generic “I’m busy” of sorts answer. Since one of the primary use cases of Burner was for dating purposes, Cohn said, it made sense to try to build a tool that would help suit that purpose.
The Burner team basically set out to build a use case that would highlight the service’s capability: generating a temporary situational phone number for users. For example, defining a temporary phone number for when you are driving to accept phone calls that evaporates once the drive is over. Ghostbot is essentially something similar, but in practice, and a lot more entertaining.