Chatbots have been around for some time. Some say that the first one was developed by an MIT professor in 1994. We use them every day as consumers, often without even knowing it, with applications like Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, Alexa, Google Assistant, and others. We enter text into an app, or we speak into an instrument, asking questions, and the chatbot responds with answers.
Many people think chatbots are AI. The fact is that chatbots do use AI, but they do so in order to understand the text or the language that they’re trying to consume. There is a whole field of computer science called Natural Language Processing (NLP) involving linguistics, information engineering and AI that is designed to improve computers’ understanding of human language.
But chatbots are not AI. Chatbots use NLP to understand the text or the language and then they choose a fixed step or steps to perform. This can come from programmed content (“What are your store hours?”) or it can come from interfacing with backend systems (“When will my shipment arrive?”). The answer chosen by the chatbot is determined solely based on NLP.