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Chatterbox Challenge > Chatterbots: what, when, where? (2) Go Back

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Are chatterbots intelligent?

Chatterbots, it must be remembered, are pieces of software. Using natural language processing, their program attempts to identify what a user says - the input - then applies a variety of different methods, from pattern matching and keyword identification to neural networks and fuzzy logic, to produce an appropriate answer. No chatterbot can claim to have human capacities of reasoning and deduction, and by no means are yet able to reproduce all the complexity of the human brain.

How intelligent you find them will depend on:

  • the technology on which the chatterbot is based
  • the quality of the knowledge base - the brain - that has been developed by the botmaster
  • what you expect from them

Developers have found a number of solutions which enable chatterbots to imitate human conversational ability, based upon a range of tricks for avoiding difficult questions and sticking to areas that they can handle, which in some ways is a proof of intelligence in itself. These include, but are not limited to:

  • making controversial statements to provoke a response
  • agreeing with the user, rather than being non-committal
  • repeating user input in their answers to make it seem as if they are following the conversation
  • remembering and reusing past topics of conversation
  • changing the topic when they don't understand
  • being random, just as humans are
  • being abusive, just as humans are

A researcher at the University of Zurich is currently carrying out a study that will analyze various aspects of human-bot interaction with chatterbots. The survey is done by means of an online questionnaire, and you can participate at

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