Chatbot: the Next Big Thing

We are all hearing a lot about chatbots these days. It’s new and trendy so what is this chatbot and why is it so famous?

You can call it conversational interfaces aka chatbots aka bots. Chatbots are computer programs or a service, powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence, that you interact via a chat interface.

Bots today are revolutionizing the arena of customer interaction and making it more convenient for the users.

Bots are able to have human like interaction mainly because they are powered by two technologies — artificial intelligence and natural language processing — that provide human-like intelligence to the bots.

From where it all has started, the evolution of the chatbot:

The first chatbot ever was developed by MIT professor Joseph Weizenbaum in the 1960s. It was called ELIZA.The program was designed in a way that it mimics human conversation. The Chatbot ELIZA worked by passing the words that users entered into a computer and then pairing them to a list of possible scripted responses. It uses a script that simulated a psychotherapist. Today’s mobile digital assistants like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa are simply advanced versions of ELIZA. After this many chatbots have been created PARRY in 1972, RACTER in 1983 and then JABBERWACKY in 2005.

You may be wondering, So how does this all work? How can a machine reply on its own?

There is basically two types of chatbot:

  • Command based or Structured: Chatbots that function on structured questions and answers are less complex
  • AI based: Chatbots that function on machine learning are complete AI.

At first, chatbot can look like a normal app. There is an application layer, a database and APIs to call external services. In a case of the chatbot, UI is replaced with chat interface.

A chatbot working on hardcoded questions/answers has a smaller knowledge and work on the structured way and can only provide the correct output to specific instructions. Using our weather chatbot as an example, the question ‘Will it rain tomorrow’ could be answered easily. However if the programming is not there, the question ‘Will I need a brolly tomorrow’ may cause the chatbot to respond with a ‘I am sorry, I didn’t understand the question’ type response.

This is my first post in Medium, I have always been a great fan of Medium app. Hope you all will find it helpful, do add your opinions and suggestions.

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