A History of Chatbots: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

July 8, 2017

2:30 pm

Chatbots are over fifty years old. Over many years and many formats, artificially intelligent chat technology has evolved into the bots we recognize today. For all their recent advancements, however, chatbots still leave much room for refinement.

The history of chatbots hasn’t been plain sailing. The technology began in 1966, when Joseph Weizenbaum created an early natural language processing computer program, Eliza. The program was designed to mimic human conversations by matching user prompts to pre-scripted responses.

Unfortunately, Eliza failed the Turing Test and failed as an automated therapist. Her invention was nonetheless a breakthrough, and technologists have since experimented with the creation of several different chatbot programs and software applications.

The Early Years

Since Eliza, we’ve seen everything from Clippy, the paperclip we all love to hate, to Microsoft’s xenophobic chatterbot Tay. It is only recently that we have begun to see chatbot technology used in everyday applications.

Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa are shaping the way we all conduct our daily lives. While it could be argued that these intelligent, voice-activated assistants are not truly chatbots, they are introducing the wider consumer market to the possibility of chatbot technology in our homes, workplaces, and on the go.

Eliza may have been developed over fifty years ago, but chatbot technology is still in its infancy. Today, we are starting to understand the sweeping potential of chatbot technology from a business perspective, rather than a novelty or technological experiment.

Customer Service Bots

Without even realizing, many customers will have interacted with chatbots on customer service calls or live chat applications. However, it’s important that customer service is not completely reliant on robots to manage complaints. As chatbots continue to evolve, it is vital that organizations take steps to explore the technology before fully implementing it into their customer service efforts.

After all, history has taught us that bot implementations can be a risky business. This infographic explores the evolution of chatbots, covering the good, the bad, and the downright ugly lessons of the past, as well as the promise for the future.

The original, full-size infographic is available for download here


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I like sugary tea, Arnold Schwarzenegger and quality copywriting. (Not necessarily in that order). You can find me at Parker Software as Online Content Manager.