From Eliza to Alexa, Here’s How Chatbots Have Evolved!

Remember the last time you chatted online with a customer service agent. You were complaining at your best, but the calm and composed customer service agent spoke logically resolved your issue. You might be in for a surprise that the customer service agent quite likely would be an artificial intelligence chatbot, quite simply a robot.

Chatbot programming

What Exactly Is A Chatbot?

According to Oxford Dictionaries, a chatbot is “A computer program designed to simulate the conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.” The word chatbot comes from “chatterbot,” a name coined by inventor Michael Mauldin in 1994.

Chatbots form conversations with people through text messages, a virtual companion that is integrated into mobile apps, websites, messengers and help companies address customer queries. Chatbot technology is over 50 years old and here’s a timeline of their evolution.

brief history of chatbots

Eliza – 1966

Developed by Joseph Weizenbaum at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Eliza was the first step in chatbot development and created to show how communication between humans & machines can happen. It used patterns to respond but didn’t have the ability to contextualize and learn through interaction.

Parry – 1972

Kenneth Colby, a psychiatrist by profession, developed Parry with an intention to interact like a paranoid schizophrenic. During the tests, an even experienced psychiatrist was not able to distinguish between real patients and Parry. The underlying approach of Parry was advanced than Eliza.

Jabberwacky – 1981

Rollo Carpenter, a British Programmer, developed the first avatar of Jabberwacky chatbot. His aim was to develop artificial intelligence that could successfully clear the Turing Test.

Dr. Sbaitso – 1991

Published by Creative Labs, Dr. Sbaitso was an artificial intelligence program developed for MS-DOS-based computers. The program would interact with the users along the lines of ‘Why do you feel like that?’, but couldn’t develop complicated interactions.

A.L.I.C.E. – 1995

Created by Richard Wallace, the pioneer of Artificial Intelligence, A.L.I.C.E. (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity) applied pattern-matching heuristics to input received from a human and form the conversation. This chatbot inspired Hollywood’s critically acclaimed movie ‘Her’.

SmarterChild – 2001

Developed by ActiveBuddy Inc., SmarterChild was an intelligent chatbot that was distributed widely across the world’s most popular instant messaging platforms and SMS services. It developed close friendships with 30 million+ Instant Messenger Users on AOL & MSN.

IBM Watson – 2006

It was a question-answering computer program that was developed with an objective to compete against humans on the popular TV game show Jeopardy! It used natural language to function and has become a core system that has helped doctors in detecting lung cancer.

Siri – 2010

Launched by Apple, Siri was the first intelligent personal assistant that converses with users who initiate voice queries through natural language processing. It was a pioneering chatbot that was followed by virtual assistants from tech giants like Google, Amazon & Microsoft.

Messenger Bots – 2016

Ever since the launch in 2016, Facebook Messenger has become the biggest example of chatbot conversations. It now hosts more than 1,00,000 chatbots from different segments.

Woebot – 2017

Another significant landmark in healthcare chatbot developments, Woebot was developed to interact with and treat patients affected by depression.

Chatbot conversations are here to stay. Gartner, a tech research company, has predicted that 85% of all customer interactions will be led by chatbots, which says we’re in for a long-term relationship with chatbots.

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