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What is a Chatbot and is it Better than a Human?

What is a Chatbot and is it Better than a Human?

Tulie Finley-Moise
Reading time: 5 minutes
Modern technology is constantly pressing forward with innovative optimization in mind. Progress in the tech world aims to simplify the human experience through the integration of computers, the internet, and artificial intelligence.
Chatbots are a brilliant fusion of all three. Capable of simulating human conversation through auditory or text methods, chatbots effectively automate basic problem-solving and request queries.
Big tech forces like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are all racing toward developing chatbots that better serve their company and consumers. This mad dash serves as a clear indicator of the burgeoning value of the chatbot. The future for the chatbot lies in powerful hands and shows great promise for tomorrow’s AI technology.
But what does this future entail? What are chatbots used for, and how have they already infiltrated our daily lives? And who’s smarter, chatbot or human? We’ll tackle all of your burning questions and more below.

What is a chatbot?

A chatbot is an artificial intelligence software that seamlessly simulates human conversation using a series of advanced rule-based Question Answering systems and Natural Language Processing algorithms. Chatbot implementations serve both functional and fun purposes from telling you a joke to telling you the weather forecast.
As new as the technology behind chatbots may seem, their history dates back to the 1960s. Much like today’s Alexa and Siri, the first chatbot was also given a human name. 1966’s Eliza was developed by MIT professor Joseph Weizenbaum. Inspired by the works of Alan Turing, Weizenbaum created Eliza; the first chatbot in the history of computer science. Eliza was designed to act as a therapist, asking open-ended questions and following up with correlated responses.
Chatbots aim to communicate and behave just like humans, effectively delivering the real-time support humans need. No wait times, no need for scheduling, and no need for actual human interaction.

How do chatbots work?

Akin to modern chatbots, Weizenbaum’s Eliza was able to simulate human conversation through programmed keyword recognition. Today, chatbots work on three different functionality architecture methods; pattern matching, natural language understanding, and natural language processing.

1. Pattern matching

Characterized by the classification of text and the production of a response, pattern matching is one of the earliest chatbot system methods. Often referred to as a “brute force” system, pattern matching is the more rudimentary chatbot architecture of the three.
For example, if you ask a pattern-matching chatbot “Who is Thomas Edison?” it will produce an answer as simple as “Thomas Edison was an American inventor.” The chatbot uses keyword association alone to deliver short, simplified answers.

2. Natural language understanding

Natural language understanding (NLU) chatbots rely on complex algorithms to analyze the input request. There are three specific elements that are essential to successful natural language understanding; entities, context, and expectations.
Functioning as a branch of artificial intelligence, NLU enables computers to understand commands without the formalized syntax found in computer languages and then for computers to turn around and communicate back to humans in their own languages.

3. Natural language processing

Natural language processing (NLP) chatbots derive meaning from user inputs through attempting to understand the intent of the input. Rather than simply spitting out an answer, NLP processes are designed to extract valuable information from the input and create a hub of data around it. This deep learning tactic is the very embodiment of artificial intelligence.

What are some chatbot examples?

Modern chatbots have infiltrated your daily life, whether you know it or not. Some of your favorite companies have made enormous leaps and bounds toward integrating artificial human intelligence into their services and products.
From ordering food and scheduling flights to getting recommendations and real-time customer service, chatbots serve many modern purposes. These 5 examples of chatbot implementation may surprise you.

1. Spotify

Through Facebook Messenger, Spotify users can discover and share music with friends directly through their chats. The bot also includes an array of search tools and can even recommend new music to curious listeners.

2. Sephora

Beauty retailer Sephora launched its Kik chatbot in 2017 in an effort to engage clientele and streamline service through mobile device accessibility. Features include a reservation assistant and a Color Match virtual assistant. This Kik bot is capable of booking appointments, suggesting products, selecting flattering colors for your skin tone, and more.

3. Lyft

Sending a request for a ride to the Lyft Facebook Messenger chatbot is one of the simplest (and little known) ways to hail a private or rideshare car to your desired destination. The Lyft bot will inform you of your ride’s license plate number and driver ID. This is also possible through Amazon’s Echo service.

4. Mastercard

Curious to know where all of your hard-earned money is going? Mastercard’s Facebook Messenger bot makes it incredibly simple and straightforward to find out. By simply asking “How much did I spend on restaurants last month,” the Mastercard chatbot will be able to deliver the exact numerical value in a moment’s time.

5. The Wall Street Journal

Staying up to date with the latest in local and national news can be an experience perfectly tailored to you and your varied interests. The Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Messenger chatbot offers everything from live stock quotes to breaking news - all accessible through mere text commands.

Chatbots vs. humans: who’s smarter?

When IBM’s chatbot Watson won the trivia game show Jeopardy! against two of the show’s former champions, questions of the chatbot’s intelligence in comparison to the human brain’s capabilities sparked a debate that still exists today. Who is smarter? Answering this question is increasingly complex as the digital age continues to unfold.
When it comes to autonomous decision-making and problem-solving that accounts for circumstantial matters, humans reign supreme. However with the constant innovation that aims to grow the Internet of Things and involved deep computer learning, the future of artificial intelligence could eventually seamlessly match the human experience.
However, behind these vastly intelligent chatbots and similar artificially intelligent software are remarkably talented people. Human innovation is behind each of these groundbreaking technologies that keep our digital world spinning. Though we may stand on the precipice of the robot age, human minds are still at the pioneering helm of the future.

About the Author

Tulie Finley-Moise is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Tulie is a digital content creation specialist based in San Diego, California with a passion for the latest tech and digital media news.

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