Hi everybody, we are together this week for an article about the history of the chatbot, from its birth to this day. Before you start a few keywords to arouse your interest: Turing Test, Eliza, MIT, Siri and Alexa. Continue reading to understand the link between all of them.

Definition

A chatbot is a program that tries to have a conversation with a person for a few minutes whose purpose is to give him the impression of addressing a human.

We might then think that the program is supposed to understand what the person is saying, but that impression is wrong, most conversational agents are not designed to understand.

They locate keywords or phrases that are then called triggersto find the answer in the database. It works to a certain limit, the conversation is more or less intelligent, and does not require understanding what they are talking about.

To improve the flaws of this techniques, namely to associate “how does it work?” “How does the software work?”, a system based on the keyword recognition method described above is required associated with a system of word recognition and linguistic analysis.

By launching the second system on the sentence stated by the interlocutor, the linguistic analysis will try to find the necessary information to answer the question, if there is no correspondence then the chatbot falls back on the keyword recognition method.

This is why two types of chatbots must be differentiated:

  • – simple bots, which are based on the keyword recognition method and
  • – intelligent bots, which use linguistic analysis based on natural language comprehension technology.

History

Before I talk about the first known chatbot, “Eliza”, let me introduce you to his ancestor.

The word ancestor might sound a bit strong to you, but if I tell you that Eliza was created in 1964 and that the chatbot I’m talking about was created back in 1780, you may understand me better.

The man behind the first chatbot searches is none other than a French abbot, Father Mical, who developed two copper talking heads, which were able to pronounce four sentences by clumsily reproducing the human voice, giving the impression that they had a conversation.

talking heads of the abbot mical

Subsequently there was Eliza as evoked above which was created by MIT professor Joseph Weizenbaum. Its operation was pretty simple:

– It started with “Good morning. Why are you coming to see me?” Then depending on the user’s response she was trying to find a question that matched his answer.
– Another scenario: the user asks him a question and she answers him by questioning the origin of this question: “Why this question?”
– And if the caller pronounced a sentence that included the word computer (see keyword search as stated in the definition), she would ask:Do you say this because I am a machine?”
The following chatbots are based on Eliza such as PARRY created in 1972 which actually interacted with her and then ALICE in 1995 and so on continues the list. Chatbots are more and more numerous, among the best known are Siri and Alexa.

Who is the best chatbot?

But then how could one evaluate the capabilities of a chatbot? 

This is where the Turing test comes in: it is intended to test the category of chatbots that want to imitate humans.  

Set up by Alan Turing in 1950, this test works as follows: a jury speaks with 2 users via interposed screens, one is a chatbot, the other a human. At the end of the test, the jury selects the one they think is a robot.  

tes Turing

The flaws in the test are: if the chatbot’s objective is to answer a client’s questions but he can’t fake a certain humanity, then he won’t validate the test even if he answers very well the questions intended for customers.

After this test was born, the Loebner Prize was established in 1990 by Hugh Loebner to award the prize to the most humane computer program. Here a few chatbots that won this award: the chatbot ALICE mentioned earlier won the prize in the following years: 2000, 2001, and 2004. The latest winner is the Mitsuku robot.

One should ask whether the Tuning test is still relevant because according to research conducted by MIT, the more the chatbot seeks to appear human the more the jury is wary of it.

Fun Fact

A little fun fact before you leave?

After Amazon released assistant Alexa, the number of girls named after this name halved from 2015 to 2018.

the drop of the first name Alexa in the United States

The final word

Robots, although their evolution has been quite remarkable over the last 20 years, have nevertheless not finished improving and surprising us.

Today experts agree that chatbots have their place in some of a human’s daily tasks but cannot yet replace it, a thought we share at TeamBrain.

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