Understanding the Difference between Chatbots and Virtual Assistants

15 Sep, 2020 | Blogs

You’ve probably interacted with chatbots on almost all the websites you’ve visited. Chatbots mimic human interactions to some extent to help you find the best solution. Yet, if you believe that these bots and the likes of Siri, Cortana, or Alexa are the same, then your understanding of these applications need an upgrade. There are significant differences between chatbots and virtual assistants, not only in terms of their applications but also in the underlying technologies and intelligence.

Chatbots and virtual assistants are a product of artificial intelligence (AI), and that is why they are often confused as one. But with these terms floating casually in the cyberspace, it is vital to understand the fundamental differences to make the best possible investment in AI-enabled technologies. In this blog, we’ll explain three main differences between chatbots and virtual assistants so that you can make an informed decision when it comes to digital transformation technologies.

What is a Chatbot?

A Chatbot can be defined as an automated program that usually operates as an interface to gather information based on a user’s conservation. It uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to interact with users, understands their questions, searches for the relevant information, and accordingly provides the right information.

What is a Virtual Assistant?

On the other hand, a virtual assistant a program that understands natural language voice commands to perform tasks for users. It does not provide information from a knowledge base, but instead, performs various tasks, such as playing music on your phone, resetting passwords, or resolving any issue.

Three Key Differences Between Chatbots And Virtual Assistants

1.Natural Language Processing

Chatbots are not designed to reply if there is a change in the use of language. In other words, this technology does not possess high natural language processing skills and can only have a structured dialogue with the user. It works by understanding keywords typed by the user and provides a programmed answer. If there is a complex question that is not programmed in it, the chatbot will fail to respond accurately and redirect it to a human for a specific reply.

Virtual Assistants: Virtual assistants rely heavily on natural language processing (NLP) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU). They understand human conversation and respond in a personalized manner that involves sentiments and emotions. The NLP ensures that virtual assistants are more conversational than chatbots. With wildcard matching of words, coding, and keyword training, virtual assistants are built to have strong NLP capacities that allows them to have conversations with humans.

2. Underlying Technology

The fundamental difference between chatbots and virtual assistants is the underlying technology used to create these two applications. A chatbot is created by either of the two predominant models, namely generative and selective models. The generative model comprises layers of information. When the user asks a question, the information goes through each layer to come up with the best possible answer.

The selective model, on the other hand, uses its current memory information and ranks the information based on each user. When a user asks a question to the chatbot, the message goes into a sequence to provide the best possible answer. This model is also called the ranking model. Regardless of the model, chatbots are trained with structured data and can be built using multiple languages such as Node.js, Javascript, C#, Java, and Python.

In contrast, virtual assistants are built using artificial neural networks (ANN) that helps them learn from various situations. The ANN is critical in helping the assistants recognize, classify, and predict the outcome based on the analysis. Virtual assistants are capable of learning through several APIs such as api.ai, Wit.ai, Tensorflow, Melissa, Amazon AI, Clarifai, and IBM Watson.

3. Intelligence

The small chat screen on any website are chatbots that usually interact with a user through texts. These chatbots are programmed to respond to a limited set of questions or statements. If the user asks a question other than what has been programmed, the chatbot will not be able to perform the tasks. In other words, it is difficult for chatbots to perform long, interactive discussions. They are usually good at gathering and providing information and fail to process languages.

Virtual assistants are more sophisticated since they understand the language and the meaning of what the speaker is saying. They are adept at learning from instances and, therefore, have continuous human interactions. Virtual assistants are also capable of performing more complicated tasks such as controlling electronic gadgets, playing music, resetting passwords, providing updates, etc.

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Knowing the difference between chatbots and virtual assistants is necessary to understand the capabilities of these technologies. Once you know these differences, you’ll be better equipped to focus on identifying the best areas of application in your organization and achieve your business goals. If you’d like to learn more about chatbots and virtual assistants, then contact us today.