Do you remember our word of the day Artificial Intelligence and the first computer that passed the Turing test, convincing one third of the judges at the Royal Society in London that it was a human? Yeah, that was Eugene Goostman, a chatbot.
Simply put, a chatbot is a computer program, designed to have a conversation / to chat with human users, especially over the Internet. For example, a chatbot could answer questions or perform actions following user’s instructions.
Nowadays, chatbots are widely used as part of virtual assistants and customer support. And indeed, they significantly improve customer experience, helping users to find answers to their particular questions, be it a weather bot, a news bot, or even a personal finance bot; or to easily purchase desired goods and services. With a 2017 chatbot market report by Grand View Research, Inc finding out that approximately 45% of end users prefer chatbots as the primary mode of communication for customer service inquires.
And when it comes to optimising corporate processes, chatbots are naturally expected to rule data-driven marketing and communication of the near future; and the chatbot market size – predicted to reach US 1.25 Billion by 2025.
Today, over half a century after the first chatbot, ELIZA, emulating a rogerian electronic psychotherapist and using string substitution and canned responses based on keywords, yet regarded as one of the first programs capable of passing the Turing Test, was created, modern chatbots have access to a very broad array of information, which makes them really intelligent, yet – still far away from outperforming humans in terms of accuracy.
And while the AI technology, Deep Learning, and Big Data, are bringing us closer to the goal of creating chatbots that would communicate with a human in natural language, as another human would, that is still in the realm of science fiction and could only be seen in Hollywood productions.
As for the term itself, the meaning of bot – to name a noun denoting a type of robot or automated device – developed in the 1960s, first recorded to describe the unlimited capabilities of an automation production bot as observed by The New York Times reporter in 1966: “The arms of an Autobot machine range from 6 inches in length to 120 feet or more for making anything from wristwatches to heavy duty machinery.”
In the 1990s, the term bot entered the computing vocabulary to name an automated program designed to respond or behave like a human and gained popularity in chat rooms (IRC bot) and video games.
And while ELIZA was referred to as a ‘computer program’ or ‘machine’, Julia, created in 1994, became the first verbal robot to be known as a Chatterbot, a term coined by its creator, Michael Mauldin.