Digital Transformation Insights

Tue, 30 May 2017

A Historical View Of Chatbots


The advent of voice and chat is a significant point in the digital timeline, representing the big shift in UX and behavior since the introduction of smartphones. Chatbots are one of the hottest trends in the world of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Implementation of chatbots across industries has brought us to the beginning of a new era in the technology: “The Era of Conversational Interface.

Looking back, it becomes evident that chatbots have a surprisingly long history - dating back to 1950 when Alan Turing imagined computers talking like humans. Alan had the foresight to develop Turing test to differentiate human from machine. The next in the chatbot timeline to gain some steam was Professor Joseph Weizenbaum who developed Eliza, a virtual psychotherapist to simulate a psychiatrist’s conversation. The first migration away from text chatbots occurred in 1988 when Rollo Carpenter started the Jabberwacky project - a voice operated entertainment AI chatbot. Next on the timeline are the series of the most popular bots like Siri (Apple), Alexa (Amazon), Cortana (Microsoft), Watson (IBM) and Messenger (Facebook).

Chatbots continue to evolve and mature over time. Investments in  chatbots will reach $3,172 million (would read $3.1 billion) by 2021, according to MarketsandMarkets report. In the near future, advances in artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to allow businesses to layer more emotional intelligence into their bots, with cognitive computing features that can analyze a consumer’s tone through machine learning algorithms.

To dive deeper into chatbots, artificial intelligent assistants and discover how industries are testing chatbots in their digital strategy, click here to download Photon’s whitepaper.

Here is a timeline on the history of chatbots and their continued evolution. 


Alan Turing developed the Turing test to determine the intelligence of computer programs.


MIT computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum publishes Eliza, a bot that uses a script to simulate a psychotherapist’s conversation.


Jabberwacky chatbot was created by Rollo Carpenter. It was one of the earliest attempts at creating an artificial intelligence through human interaction.


Loebner Prize was launched - an annual contest to name the bot found to be most human-like.


An artificial intelligence speech synthesis program named Dr. Sbaitso was developed by Creative Labs for MS-DOS-based personal computers.


A.L.I.C.E. (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity) was created - a natural language processing bot that applied heuristic pattern matching rules to human input.


ActiveBuddy developed SmarterChild, a chatbot that was available on AOL Instant Messenger and Windows Live Messenger (previously MSN Messenger) networks. In many ways, SmarterChild was a precursor to Apple’s Siri and Samsung’s S Voice.


Three programmers developed Eugene Goostman chatbot. It is the first chatbot that passed the Turing test on June 7, 2014, when it convinced 33% of the event’s judges that it was human.


Steve Worswick developed Mitsuku, which later won the Loebner prize twice.


Apple launches Siri, a voice activated intelligent assistant as part of their iOS and MacOS platforms.


Google develops Google Now chatbot for Google search mobile app. Google Home is powered by Google Assistant, which performs all the same tasks as Google Now and offers up information in a more conversational and accessible format.


Amazon launches Alexa via the Amazon Echo, and Microsoft launches Cortana, a virtual assistant named after the fictional character from “Halo.”


Facebook launches M, a hybrid bot-and-human virtual assistant, accessible through Messenger.


Alexa enters 5% of Amazon customers’ homes


Google unveils its Amazon Echo competitor called Google Home


Apple introduces SiriKit.


Facebook, Google, and Microsoft make major announcements about bot platforms at their annual conferences.


Introduction of Google Lens - the AI augmented reality feature uses machine learning to turn your camera into a search box.


Google Assistant expands beyond Android to iOS. Google Assistant is now available for download on the iTunes Stores for iPhones.


Google Home gets way more useful. It can now schedule appointments and make hands-free calls as well.

Download the Evolution of Conversational Interfaces Timeline Graphic