What is a chat bot?

Image credit: "MIT Medialab robots" (CC BY 2.0) by  nicolasnova 


You've heard the buzz, the talk of robotics, and heard them mentioned but do you really know what is a chat bot actually is?

There are many bots emerging, the most familiar is one based on a set of rules, and the other, a more advanced version using machine learning.

According to Tech Crunch:

“Chatbots are programs that respond to natural language text and, optionally, voice inputs in a humanlike manner. They can execute tasks, give specific commands (think voice control, or most Slack bots), but their raison d’être is that they listen, talk and seem to converse.”

A simple bot can only respond to very specific commands. This bot has significant limitations. If you say the wrong thing, it doesn’t know what you mean. This bot is only as smart as it is programmed to be and is designed to perform its tasks e.g. if it is designed to find flights it won't be ordering you pizza. 

The more advanced chat bot uses has an artificial brain a.k.a. artificial intelligence (AI). It uses machine learning and pattern recognition to decipher human speech. It understands language, not just commands. It continuously gets smarter as it learns from the conversations it has with people. You can have actual conversations with these bots and they’ll continue learning, getting smarter and delivering a better experience as time passes.

Chatting can be done through text, image recognition, or even voice e.g. digital assistants such as iPhone’s Siri or Alexa, the Artificial Intelligence bot within the Amazon Echo.


Try out our chat bot on Facebook Messenger to understand how bots work. 

Exicon’s Calculator bot, can be added by searching for "ExiCalc" in Messenger's search bar.

Here's an example of chat from within an app

Duolingo on iOS has introduced chat to its app to allow you to have AI-powered conversations to learn languages. For now, you can only use text chat to talk to the bots. Over time, Duolingo plans to allow for spoken conversation. 

Chat bots can converse with users from within multiple different platforms. They live in messaging systems, robots, connected home hubs, mobile apps, games and on the web. Common uses include advertising, assistance, customer care, e-learning, entertainment, ecommerce and more.

Chat bots reduce the need for many mobile apps and websites as the answers are stored inside the chatbot. Need to know what the weather’s like in HK? Ask your chatbot. Want to order an Uber taxi? Ask your chatbot.

Ok, I think you've got what a chatbot is, next we'll look at why chatbots are important 

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