Indulge us for a minute by taking a walk down the annals of history. If ELIZA were human, she would be celebrating her 55th birthday this year. So who is she? Well, ELIZA was what many consider to be the first chatbots. Alan Turing, a British Computer Scientist, was the brainchild behind the innovative technology.
Turing wanted to see whether a computer program would hold a conversation with humans. But, they would not know it was a machine on the other end. In 1966, ELIZA came into the world and earmarked the beginning of chatbots technology as we know it today. The creator was Joseph Weizenbaum, a Computer scientist who borrowed from Turing’s works.
ELIZA’s drawback was that she had limited knowledge. Her responses were specific to pre-set templates around response selection and pattern making. Beyond that, she could not uncover context or learn behavior.
About six years later, PARRY came to be. The ‘second born’ was more advanced and had some interesting features. The team gave him more personality and a controlled structure.
Like ELIZA, it found use in psychotherapy situations. It would tailor responses based on a system of emotional responses and assumptions.
Unfortunately, PARRY could not learn from conversations or even express emotion. It wasn’t until 1988 that artificial intelligence (AI) found its way to chatbots. Since then, the leaps and bounds in functionalities are incredible.
The history of chatbots is quite fascinating. Only then can you appreciate how far chatbots have come.
What are Chatbots?
A chatbot is a computer program that can simulate conversation using natural language. You find them on applications like messaging apps, websites, smart devices, and smartphones.
Take a look at some of the e-commerce websites. You find that you have access to customer support 24/7. Responses to your queries are instantaneous. What you may not know is that you could be chatting with a machine.
An interesting survey shows that 56% of businesses say chatbots are vital drivers of disruption in their industries. 77% are already using conversational bots for customer and after-sales services. Only 38% of customers want to talk to a human agent, preferring interactions with chatbots.
There are many benefits to using chatbots. Such include:-
- Personalization of customer experiences through interaction
- Conversational marketing for better engagement
- Faster and accurate responses to customer queries
- 24/7 access to customer support, without the expense of hiring full-time staff
- Cost savings to the business. Are chatbots expensive? Yes, they can be depending on the features you want. But, the initial high cost comes from the installation. After that, you don’t have to worry about salaries, insurance, or any other costs associated with him and agents
- Chatbots help achieve higher efficiency in processes. Customers do not have to wait for a human agent who may be busy doing other things.
- Bots can help with market research because they collect a lot of data.
Chatbots use different technologies in their functionalities. That is the basis of our article below, so let’s check them out.
1. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Natural Language Processing (NLP), and Machine Learning (ML)
Jabberwacky was the forerunner in AI in chatbots. Rollo Carpenter created it in 1988. The main differentiator was using contextual pattern matching instead of static databases, as was the case with ELIZA and PARRY.
There are two basic types of chatbots.
Declarative or task-oriented chatbots that offer basic functionalities. They use pre-set scripts to respond to questions. A good example would be those that answer frequently asked questions (FAQS).
Conversational/ predictive or data-driven chatbots are more advanced. AI chatbots are a good example. They are more intelligent and can mimic human behavior. AI and NLP make the machines more intelligent. They also become capable of a level of emotional intelligence.
ML and NLP use algorithms to process, interpret, infer and determine the context of words. They do this for both written and spoken conversations. Once the AI chatbots have relevant insights, they determine appropriate actions.
The systems do not function on rules or scripts that you feed into the system. Different scenarios or encounters determine the response they give.
You will find e-commerce companies using them to make product recommendations. They look at the past shopping behavior of a customer to determine what they would buy. They can then make suggestions to help sway the purchasing decision.
But there is an important distinction you need to know. NLP bots can function without machine learning capabilities. The ML aspect, for instance, empowers the bot to learn from its mistakes.
If the machine learning algorithm is not part of the bot, the creator takes over the job. He notes the mistakes and ‘teaches’ the bot by correcting the error. There is less structure in this type of bot, giving the user more control over the conversations.
But, a lack of structure may lead to confusion and unpredictable experiences. NLP technologies give structure and more control resulting in quality conversations.
2. Natural Language Understanding
One of the most significant limitations PARRY had was low language capabilities. Natural language understanding (NLU) gets insights from the various aspects of language.
NLU understands natural language, natural speech, and text-based commands. It takes into consideration the structure and content of the language.
With NLU, the computer program can communicate with humans in their language. They don’t depend on the formal syntax you find in computer languages.
The technology is so powerful that it can get meaning even when there are errors. The errors include mispronunciations or wrong word or letter placement.
3. Voice Activation or Conversational Technology
Instead of using text to respond, voice-activated chatbots use pre-recorded audio responses. The main advantage is that it frees users from restrictions on text-based interactions.
You find the technology in smart devices such as Amazon Echo, Microsoft Cortana, and Google Home. Users may need to buy separate devices like smart speakers. But, you can find some of the voice-based chatbots on smartphones and computers.
Think about all the places you can find chatbot applications. They include websites, social media, messaging apps like WhatsApp, and so much more. Now imagine all these chatbots having the ability to talk to one another.
Data exchange and interpretation can happen across devices and systems without any limitations. That is the simplest way to define interoperability. Such technology would allow users to get ultimate usage from the different chatbots.
Think of it like some kind of device submersion for best results. What do we mean? The Facebook bot could browse through tons of products. It then presents the results to you, allowing for quick decision-making. You then order the product via your smart speaker.
If Alan Turing were alive today, it would amaze him how far chatbots have come. Alan wanted to know whether he could spoof people into communicating with machines. He was confident that machines could be intelligent.
Unfortunately, he is not here today to see his thoughts come to life. AI chatbots can mimic human beings. You could carry out an entire conversation with a machine thinking it is a human agent.
Conversational Technologies result in better engagement and interaction. You can operate different devices within the home from the comfort of your seat. All you need is a smart speaker and the right app. You can switch off and on appliances and don’t even need to get up to close the garage door.
E-commerce platforms are also enjoying the benefits of the Technologies. Chatbots provide timely responses to customer queries. They can also make product recommendations with insights from past purchasing behavior.
The result is a better customer experience. Happy customers remain loyal, which Impacts the bottom line of the business.
We can still expect a lot of development in technologies that empower chatbots. There is a lot to look forward to if the historical trend is anything to go by.