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chatbot(chat roBOT) Software that provides a text or verbal interaction with a person using native language. Also called a "chatterbot," the chatbot is designed to emulate normal human responses. Chatbots can be very limited in scope, although they may be able to improve with use. The terms "chatbot" and "virtual assistant" are increasingly used synonymously; however, chatbots preceded virtual assistants and generally provide suggestions or answers to questions about a specific topic or product. Chatbots may also be embedded within an app or Web page, whereas virtual assistants such as Siri and Cortana are stand-alone, ask-anything programs. See virtual assistant, expert system and AI.
A chatbot may function as the first attempt at solving a problem but be able to suggest the user activate a live chat with a human sales or support rep.
The Loebner Prize
An annual contest for the most human-sounding chatbot was started in 1991 by Hugh Loebner with the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies in Massachusetts (www.behavior.org) as the original sponsor. The text-based contest was set up to find the most advanced artificial intelligence (AI) system as defined by Alan Turing in the 1940s (see Turing test). See ALICE and AI.