User message. Once authenticated, the user sends a message to the bot. The bot reads the message and routes it to a natural language understanding service such as LUIS. This step gets the intents (what the user wants to do) and entities (what things the user is interested in). The bot then builds a query that it passes to a service that serves information, such as Azure Search for document retrieval, QnA Maker for FAQs, or a custom knowledge base. The bot uses these results to construct a response. To give the best result for a given query, the bot might make several back-and-forth calls to these remote services.

Through our preview journey in the past two years, we have learned a lot from interacting with thousands of customers undergoing digital transformation. We highlighted some of our customer stories (such as UPS, Equadex, and more) in our general availability announcement. This post covers conversational AI in a nutshell using Azure Bot Service and LUIS, what we’ve learned so far, and dive into the new capabilities. We will also show how easy it is to get started in building a conversational bot with natural language.
In 1950, Alan Turing's famous article "Computing Machinery and Intelligence" was published, which proposed what is now called the Turing test as a criterion of intelligence. This criterion depends on the ability of a computer program to impersonate a human in a real-time written conversation with a human judge, sufficiently well that the judge is unable to distinguish reliably—on the basis of the conversational content alone—between the program and a real human. The notoriety of Turing's proposed test stimulated great interest in Joseph Weizenbaum's program ELIZA, published in 1966, which seemed to be able to fool users into believing that they were conversing with a real human. However Weizenbaum himself did not claim that ELIZA was genuinely intelligent, and the Introduction to his paper presented it more as a debunking exercise:
Die meisten Chatbots greifen auf eine vorgefertigte Datenbank, die sog. Wissensdatenbank mit Antworten und Erkennungsmustern, zurück. Das Programm zerlegt die eingegebene Frage zuerst in Einzelteile und verarbeitet diese nach vorgegebenen Regeln. Dabei können Schreibweisen harmonisiert (Groß- und Kleinschreibung, Umlaute etc.), Satzzeichen interpretiert und Tippfehler ausgeglichen werden (Preprocessing). Im zweiten Schritt erfolgt dann die eigentliche Erkennung der Frage. Diese wird üblicherweise über Erkennungsmuster gelöst, manche Chatbots erlauben darüber hinaus die Verschachtelung verschiedener Mustererkennungen über sogenannte Makros. Wird eine zur Frage passende Antwort erkannt, kann diese noch angepasst werden (beispielsweise können skriptgesteuert berechnete Daten eingefügt werden – „In Ulm sind es heute 37 °C.“). Diesen Vorgang nennt man Postprocessing. Die daraus entstandene Antwort wird dann ausgegeben. Moderne kommerzielle Chatbot-Programme erlauben darüber hinaus den direkten Zugriff auf die gesamte Verarbeitung über eingebaute Skriptsprachen und Programmierschnittstellen.
Just last month, Google launched its latest Google Assistant. To help readers get a better glimpse of the redesign, Google’s Scott Huffman explained: “Since the Assistant can do so many things, we’re introducing a new way to talk about them. We’re them Actions. Actions include features built by Google—like directions on Google Maps—and those that come from developers, publishers, and other third parties, like working out with Fitbit Coach.”
More and more companies embrace chatbots to increase engagement with their audiences in the last few years. Especially for some industries including banking, insurance, and retail chatbots started to function as efficient interactive tools to increase customer satisfaction and cost-effectiveness. A study by Humley found out 43% of digital banking users are turning to chatbots – the increasing trend shows that banking customers consider the chatbot as an alternative channel to get instant information and solve their issues.
More and more companies embrace chatbots to increase engagement with their audiences in the last few years. Especially for some industries including banking, insurance, and retail chatbots started to function as efficient interactive tools to increase customer satisfaction and cost-effectiveness. A study by Humley found out 43% of digital banking users are turning to chatbots – the increasing trend shows that banking customers consider the chatbot as an alternative channel to get instant information and solve their issues.
Closed domain chatbots focus on a specific knowledge domain, and these bots may fail to answer questions in other knowledge domains. For example, a restaurant booking conversational bot will be able to take your reservation, but may not respond to a question about the price of an air ticket. A user could hypothetically attempt to take the conversation elsewhere, however, closed domain chatbots are not required, nor often programmed to handle such cases.
It’s not all doom and gloom for chatbots. Chatbots are a stopgap until virtual assistants are able to tackle all of our questions and concerns, regardless of the site or platform. Virtual assistants will eventually connect to everything in your digital life, from websites to IoT-enabled devices. Rather than going through different websites and speaking to various different chatbots, the virtual assistant will be the platform for finding the answers you need. If these assistants are doing such a good job, why would you even bother to use a branded chatbot? Realistically this won’t take place for sometime, due to the fragmentation of the marketplace.
Along with the continued development of our avatars, we are also investigating machine learning and deep learning techniques, and working on the creation of a short term memory for our bots. This will allow humans interacting with our AI to develop genuine human-like relationships with their bot; any personal information that is exchanged will be remembered by the bot and recalled in the correct context at the appropriate time. The bots will get to know their human companion, and utilise this knowledge to form warmer and more personal interactions.
“To be honest, I’m a little worried about the bot hype overtaking the bot reality,” said M.G. Siegler, a partner with GV, the investment firm formerly known as Google Ventures. “Yes, the high level promise of what bots can offer is great. But this isn’t going to happen overnight. And it’s going to take a lot of experimentation and likely bot failure before we get there.”
According to this study by Petter Bae Brandtzaeg, “the real buzz about this technology did not start before the spring of 2016. Two reasons for the sudden and renewed interest in chatbots were [number one] massive advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and a major usage shift from online social networksto mobile messaging applications such as Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Slack, Kik, and Viber.”

Facebook has jumped fully on the conversational commerce bandwagon and is betting big that it can turn its popular Messenger app into a business messaging powerhouse. The company first integrated peer-to-peer payments into Messenger in 2015, and then launched a full chatbot API so businesses can create interactions for customers to occur within the Facebook Messenger app. You can order flowers from 1–800-Flowers, browse the latest fashion and make purchases from Spring, and order an Uber, all from within a Messenger chat.
In this article, we shed a spotlight on 7 real-world chatbots/virtual assistants across industries that are in action and reaping value for their parent companies. From streamlined operations and saved human productivity to increased customer engagement, the following examples are worth a read if you’ve ever considered leveraging chatbot technology for your business (or are curious about the possibilities).
Many expect Facebook to roll out a bot store of some kind at its annual F8 conference for software developers this week, which means these bots may soon operate inside Messenger, its messaging app. It has already started testing a virtual assistant bot called “M,” but the product is only available for a few people and still primarily powered by humans.
Closed domain chatbots focus on a specific knowledge domain, and these bots may fail to answer questions in other knowledge domains. For example, a restaurant booking conversational bot will be able to take your reservation, but may not respond to a question about the price of an air ticket. A user could hypothetically attempt to take the conversation elsewhere, however, closed domain chatbots are not required, nor often programmed to handle such cases.
It won’t be an easy march though once we get to the nitty-gritty details. For example, I heard through the grapevine that when Starbucks looked at the voice data they collected from customer orders, they found that there are a few millions unique ways to order. (For those in the field, I’m talking about unique user utterances.) This is to be expected given the wild combinations of latte vs mocha, dairy vs soy, grande vs trenta, extra-hot vs iced, room vs no-room, for here vs to-go, snack variety, spoken accent diversity, etc. The AI practitioner will soon curse all these dimensions before taking a deep learning breath and getting to work. I feel though that given practically unlimited data, deep learning is now good enough to overcome this problem, and it is only a matter of couple of years until we see these TODA solutions deployed. One technique to watch is Generative Adversarial Nets (GAN). Roughly speaking, GAN engages itself in an iterative game of counterfeiting real stuffs, getting caught by the police neural network, improving counterfeiting skill, and rinse-and-repeating until it can pass as your Starbucks’ order-taking person, given enough data and iterations.
Consider why someone would turn to a bot in the first place. According to an upcoming HubSpot research report, of the 71% of people willing to use messaging apps to get customer assistance, many do it because they want their problem solved, fast. And if you've ever used (or possibly profaned) Siri, you know there's a much lower tolerance for machines to make mistakes.
Artificial neural networks, invented in the 1940’s, are a way of calculating an output from an input (a classification) using weighted connections (“synapses”) that are calculated from repeated iterations through training data. Each pass through the training data alters the weights such that the neural network produces the output with greater “accuracy” (lower error rate).

This kind of thinking has lead me to develop a bot where the focus is as a medium for content rather than a subsitute for intelligence. So users create content much as conventional author, (but with text stored in spreadsheets rather than anywhere else). Very little is expected from the bot in terms of human behavious such as “learning”, “empathy”, “memory” and character”. Does it work?
It takes bold visionaries and risk-takers to build future technologies into realities. In the field of chatbots, there are many companies across the globe working on this mission. Our mega list of artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing, and chatbot companies, covers the top companies and startups who are innovating in this space.
The process of building, testing and deploying chatbots can be done on cloud-based chatbot development platforms[51] offered by cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS) providers such as Oracle Cloud Platform Yekaliva[47][28] and IBM Watson.[52][53][54] These cloud platforms provide Natural Language Processing, Artificial Intelligence and Mobile Backend as a Service for chatbot development.
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