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The evolution of conversational interface



With changes in consumer behavior and expectations, its necessary to study how the invisible interfaces like chatbots and intelligent assistants are redefining customer engagement and brand experiences.

Nowadays, messaging apps are increasingly becoming new platforms of convenience and customers expect to unlock a plethora of information by using just voice commands. A quick glance at some of the facts is listed below:

Today, 6 out of top 10 apps are messaging apps.

More than 1/3rd of customers prefer social media for customer support rather than using telephonic conversation.

Each month, over a billion messages are exchanged between businesses and their customers over Facebook Messenger, Telegram and other platforms.

The revolution of how humans interact with devices is made possible by rise of messaging apps, social media, mobility cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT) accompanied by machine learning, natural language processing and cutting edge technologies like neural networks. The future will be enabled by everything from intelligent assistants, conversational interfaces, smart devices and even immersive virtual reality.

Chatbot or Intelligent Assistant, what is it?

A chatbot is nothing but a conversational user interface using voice, text or images, the driving force being artificial intelligence and natural language processing, image and video processing, and audio analysis to extract contextual meaning and user intent, responding to it with human-like intelligence. Artificial intelligence technology combined with messaging apps has made chatbots glamorous tool for enterprises today. Artificial intelligence and speech recognition are primers for chatbot development. Big players like Google, Apple (Siri), Amazon (Alexa), Facebook Messenger, IBM (Watson), Microsoft (Cortana) provide platforms for developers to develop and deploy chatbots.

The Evolution of the Conversational Interface – From Eliza to Alexa:

It all started in the year 1950. Alan Turing developed the Turing test which was used to determine the intelligence of the computer programs. Alan Turing was an English computer scientist, mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher and theoretical biologist.

Then in the year 1960, MIT computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum published a bot named Eliza that used a script to simulate a psychotherapist’s conversations. Eliza was created to demonstrate the superficiality of communication between man and machine. It simulated the conversation by using pattern matching and substitution methodology that gave users an illusion of understanding on the part of the program, but had no built in framework for contextualizing events.

In the year 1988, Rollo Carpenter created Jabberwacky chatbot. It marked as one of the earliest attempts at creating an artificial intelligence through human interaction. Rollo carepenter went on with developing a bot named Cleverbot, a chatbot web application which used artificial intelligence algorithm to have conversations with humans.

In the year 1990, Loebner prize was launched which was an annual contest to name the bot found to be most human like.

Following the suit, in the year 1992, an artificial intelligence speech synthesis program named Dr. Sbaitso was developed by creative labs for MS-DOS based personal computers. The program “conversed” with the user as if it were a psychologist, though most of its responses were along the lines of “WHY DO YOU FEEL THAT WAY?” rather than any sort of complicated interaction.

A.L.I.C.E. (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity, was developed in the year 1995. It was a natural language processing bot that applied heuristic pattern matching rules to human input. The software which was used to create A.L.I.C.E. is available as open source Alicebot and Artificial Intelligence Markup Language (AIML) software.

During the start of 21st century, in the year 20000, SmarterChild was developed by ActiveBuddy. SmartChild, a chatbot was available on AOL instant Messenger and Windows Live Messenger (previously known as MSN Messenger) networks. In many ways, SmarterChild was a precursor to Apple’s Siri and Samsung’s S Voice.

After SmarterChild, three programmers, the Russian-born Vladimir Veselov, Ukrainian-born Eugene Demchenko, and Russian-born Sergey Ulasen developed Eugene Goostman chatbot in Saint Petersberg. It is the first chatbot that passed the Turing test on June 7, 2014 and was able to convince over 33% of the event’s judges that it was human. Goostman is portrayed as a 13 year old Ukranian boy – characteristics that are intended to induce forgiveness in those with whom it interacts for its grammatical errors and lack of general knowledge.

In the year 2005, Steve Worswick developed Mitsuku using AIML technology which later won the Loebner Prize two times in the years 2013 and 2016.

Then, after 7 years, in the year 2011, Apple launched Siri, a voice activated intelligent assistant as a part of their iOS and MacOS platforms (also a part of watchOS and tvOS platforms now as well). The assistant uses voice queries and a natural language user interface to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions by delegating requests to a set of Internet services.

Following Siri, Google developed its own chatbot, Google Now for Google Search Mobile app. Google Home is powered by Google Assistant, which performs all the same tasks as Google Now an offers up information in a more conversational and accessible format.

Amazon follows suit with Apple and Google by launching its own, Alexa via the Amazon Echo and Microsoft launches Cortana, a virtual assistant named after a fictional character from “Halo” in the year 2014.

Next year, in 2015, Facebook launched M, a hybrid bot-and-human, text based virtual assistant of the social network which is accessible through Facebook Messenger.

Growing up significantly, Alexa was able to take a place in over 5% of Amazon customer’s homes in 2016. In the same year, Google unveils its Amazon Echo competitor and named it as Google Home. Also, Apple introduced SiriKit. SiriKit enables your iOS apps and watchOS apps to work with Siri, so users can get things done with your content and services using just their voice. In addition to extending Siri’s support for messaging, photo search and phone calls to more apps, SiriKit also adds support for new services, including ride booking and personal payments. Also, in the same year, Facebook, Google and Microsoft made major announcements about their bot platforms at their annual conferences respectively.

Presently, in 2017, Google introduces Google Lens, the assistant which actively uses machine learning technology to understand the surroundings and display relevant content on your screen. Google Assistant which was a part of Android only, spreads to Apple’s iOS platform. It is now available at iTunes stores for iPhones for download.

Google Home also gets more useful. It now acts as a phone, can connect over Bluetooth. Also, it’s now compatible with services like HBO and Hulu, which will enable you to use your voice enabled voice assistant to issue commands to these apps throughout the house.

We are building a platform where you can create a custom chatbot and publish it on Facebook, Telegram, Andriod and iOS. Kindly share this article and follow me on Twitter. I would love to know your experience with chatbot and AI Assistants.

The evolution of conversational interface