You can hardly turn on the television news, pull a magazine off a rack in a doctor’s office, or check out your social media without being confronted by a discussion about artificial intelligence. Whether the writer or talking head is decrying the imminent robot apocalypse or celebrating our deep-learning-based salvation, most of the coverage has one thing in common: an imprecise definition of AI. AI is, at its base, nothing more than software that simulates intelligence.
One specific type of AI is cropping up all around the Internet: conversational AI, mostly in the form of chatbots. The most recent and high-profile news about AI was Google’s announcement that its AI, called Google Assistant, beat the Turing test—150 times. The Turing test evaluates a machine’s ability to successfully mimic human intelligence by presenting as indistinguishable from human communication.
Given the fact that we are already interacting with this sort of AI daily—in the form of our phone’s digital assistant or mapping software or a help bot on a website we use, for instance—it’s important to understand what conversational AI is, why it’s become so popular, the obstacles to its adoption, and its likely future.