Conversational AI

The History and Evolution of Conversational AI

April 17, 2021

The History and Evolution of Conversational AI

AI solutions or conversational algorithms have become part of our daily lives, from buying electronics from an e-shop to booking a hotel or flight. Developments in cloud computing, the introduction of paperless workflows, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are some of the factors that are transforming our world and influencing data collection, analysis, efficiency and productivity, and interactions. Once limited to specialized settings, today, AI enables us to talk to our cars, TVs, and mobile devices, making other forms of communication outdated.

What Is Conversational AI

Conversational AI encompasses technologies such as voice assistants and chatbots capable of responding to natural language and offering human-like interaction. They use machine learning, advanced dialogue management, natural language processing, and automated speech recognition to process text and voice input and learn from interactions.

How Conversational AI works

Machine Learning

AI chatbots use machine learning to understand user input and hold a conversation in a human-like way. Machine learning enables systems and applications to learn from experience by processing large volumes of data and identifying patterns. Different algorithmic approaches have been tested over the years, from reinforcement training and clustering to inductive logic programming and decision tree making to enable the software to learn with minimum intervention.

Natural Language Processing

A branch of artificial intelligence, Natural Language Processing (NLP), aims to empower machines to understand and manipulate human language. Based on machine and deep learning and rule-based modeling, NLP enables software agents to process and summarize text and interact with humans through natural language generation, sentiment analysis, word sense disambiguation, and speech recognition.

Dawn of Conversational AI

It was in the 1950s when Alan Turing hypothesized that a computer program could interact with humans. The first chatbot software ever developed, Eliza, is a computer program using natural language processing to imitate a psychotherapist’s language. This is the first time when a human-like conversation with a chatbot was made possible.

The Smartphone Age

Mobile devices have been the catalyst that accelerated the development of artificial intelligence. In the early 2000s, designers were faced with the difficult task of fitting websites into different-sized screens and across mobile phone, tablet, and desktop devices. Struggling to improve graphical layouts and functionality, they began to wonder if there could be a better interface to enhance user experience.

With the development of different mobile applications, the first chatbot technology that came into existence in 2001 enabled users to retrieve information about stock prices, sports scores, movie times, yellow page listings, weather, and news. The development of SmarterChild, available on MSN and AOL, marks a turning point in the evolution of chatbot technologies. Many applications were developed between 2010 and 2016, popular ones being Siri, Google Now, Cortana, Alexa, and Google Home.

Created by Apple in 2011, Siri is a conversational AI chatbot that helps with translation, calculations, fact-checking, payments, navigation, handling settings, and scheduling reminders and events.

Alexa is another AI bot that Amazon developed in 2014 to keep users informed and connected.Their virtual assistant features multiple functionalities, from controlling smart devices and providing traffic and weather information to accessing content, creating lists, and streaming podcasts. Released in 2016, Google Nest allows users to access services through Google Assistant, including playing music and podcasts, setting reminders, and getting local info.

Modern Conversational AI Technologies

In the era of artificial intelligence, a conversational AI platform can help with a host of different tasks and activities, from recommending and comparing products and services to answering questions, updating order details, and handling refunds. Advanced solutions come with an in-built memory to provide a personalized service, remembering things like user address or location and personal preferences.
Drawing on conversational UX modeling, context recognition, and natural language recognition, AI chatbots learn from previous conversations and are already becoming more human-like and efficient. Today, virtual assistants offer help with tasks like:

  • Check-in for a cruise or flight
  • Sending service reminders
  • Arranging roadside assistance
  • Locating a service provider
  • Providing delivery information
  • Showcasing discounts, deals, and promotions

Conversational AI has been successfully used in marketing, retail, and banking to increase efficiency and enhance the customer experience. Chatbots are increasingly used in the healthcare sector and help improve the quality of care and reduce clinical workload. A conversational AI chatbot can carry out multiple tasks that allow hospital teams to handle more patients, lower costs and the administrative flow burden, and provide more satisfactory patient experiences.

Virtual assistants can help with patient data retrieval, appointment booking, medical triaging, symptom checking, and more. Some of the more advanced solutions, such as Fabric's AI care navigation assistant, feature a 24/7 virtual concierge that can help screen for symptoms, find a healthcare facility or physician, booking appointments, triaging to the right hospital clinic, and answering questions.

The Future of Conversational AI

Conversational artificial intelligence has the potential to dramatically improve efficiency, quality of service, and customer experience. These repetitive tasks take much time, from assigning tasks, scheduling meetings, and mail searches to accessing applications and knowledge databases.Not only are they mundane activities, but they are non-value adding and can be performed more efficiently and quickly by virtual assistants.

The adoption of conversational AI improves personalization, with bots being capable of holding human-like conversations and remembering user preferences, past dialogues, and context and meaning. These bots are used to deliver an enriched and satisfying customer experience and increase user engagement.

AI-powered technologies offer multiple advantages across different sectors, from higher productivity and increased accessibility to reduced customer care costs, superior level of service, and easy scalability. Conversational AI is constantly evolving and assisting with an increased number of tasks and interactive functions, which will only grow the quality of information delivered, smoothness of communication, and seamless experience for those who use it.


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