Bob Beatty, EVP of Customer Experience for GM Financial, praises IBM Watson Assistant for its intelligence. (Source: IBM)

Chatbots Take on More Human Characteristics as Companies Refine Technology

For most of the years since chatbots became ubiquitous, communicating with them was the equivalent of getting canned answers from a pull-string doll. Now, due to better training, improved Natural Language Processing (NLP) and voluminous databases, the “spiral of misery” described in a New York Times article by Steve Lohr has become more like a tolerable interaction.

Lohr talked to analysts who predicted that they are becoming and will be “more intelligent, more conversational, more humanlike and, most important, more helpful.” In other words, what they were meant to be. Previously, speaking from experience, the Frequently Asked Questions sections and Google yielded more useful information.

“Even now, there are times you sort of can’t tell it’s not a human,” said Bern Elliot, an analyst at Gartner, a technology research firm. “It’s not as good as you’d like, but it is moving in that direction. And innovation is occurring at a rapid pace.”

The story praises consumer digital assistant software, like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, which have access to the web to answer questions. Chatbots are more typically a company’s internet version of a telephone assistant, and it only has access to corporate data centers and far less data. To take advantage of a market gap, Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Oracle have developed chatbot software, as well as smaller companies:, Omilia, Rasa,, Verint and

Correspondingly, in 2022, Gartner predicts the business market for chatbots, or virtual assistants, will grow 15 percent to more than $7 billion. IBM’s Watson Assistant is leading the way.

“The real world opened our eyes,” said Aya Soffer, a vice president for A.I. technologies at IBM Research.