- Automated online assistant
An automated online assistant is a program that uses artificial intelligence to provide customer service or other assistance on a website. Such an assistant may basically consist of a dialog system, an avatar, as well an expert system to provide specific expertise to the user.
Automated online assistants have the ability to provide customer service during 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, and may, at least, be a complement to customer service by humans. One report estimated that an automated online assistant produced a 30% decrease in the work-load for a human-provided call centre.
Large companies such as Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland are now using automated online assistants instead of call centres with humans to provide a first point of contact. Also, IKEA has an automated online assistant in their help center.
Automated online assistants can also be implemented via Twitter, or Windows Live Messenger, such as, for example, Robocoke for Coca Cola Hungary. This automated online assistant provides users with information about the brand Coca Cola, but he can also give users party and concert recommendations all over Hungary.
Popular online portals like eBay and PayPal are also using multi lingual virtual agents to offer online support to their customers. For example, PayPal uses Louise to handle queries in English and Léa to handle queries in French. Developed by VirtuOz, both agents handle 400,000 conversations in a month. These agents have been functional since September 2008 on PayPal websites.
The main function of the dialog system of automated online assistants is to translate the human-generated input into a digital format that the automated online assistant can use for further processing by its expert system, as well as interpret whatever solutions or replies it generates back to what a human user understands, and optimally in a way as natural and user-friendly as possible. A major underlying technology to such systems is natural language processing.
In addition, the dialog systems of many automated online assistants have integrated chatterbots, giving them more or less ability of engaging in small talk or casual conversations unrelated to the scope of their expert systems, or simply making the dialog feel more natural.
The avatar of an automated online assistant may be called an interactive online character or automated character. It makes the automated online assistant a form of embodied agent. It aims to enhance human-computer interaction by simulating real-world conversations and experience. Such an interaction model can be constructed to guide conversations in planned directions or allow characters to guide natural language exchanges.
Because such characters can express social roles and emotions of real people, they can increase the trust that users place in online experiences. The level of interactiveness increases the perceived realism and effectiveness of such "actors", which translates into more prosperous on-line services and commerce. 
An automated online assistant also has an expert system that provides specific service, whose scope depends on the purpose of it.
Also, servers and other maintaining systems to keep the automated assistant online may also be regarded as components of it.
- Applications of artificial intelligence
- Avatar (computing)
- Computer facial animation
- Natural language processing
- Simulated reality
- Wizard (software)
Notes and references
- ^ Providing Language Instructor with Artificial Intelligence Assistant. By Krzysztof Pietroszek. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning (iJET), Vol 2, No 4 (2007)  
- ^ a b Implementing an online help desk system based on conversational agent Authors: Alisa Kongthon, Chatchawal Sangkeettrakarn, Sarawoot Kongyoung and Choochart Haruechaiyasak. Published by ACM 2009 Article, Bibliometrics Data Bibliometrics. Published in: Proceeding, MEDES '09 Proceedings of the International Conference on Management of Emergent Digital EcoSystems, ACM New York, NY, USA. ISBN 978-1-60558-829-2, doi:10.1145/1643823.1643908
- ^ Aetna's new "virtual online assistant" By Anthony O'Donnell. Insurance & Technolog. June 03, 2010
- ^ The Effect of Viewer Perceptions of Avatar Anthropomorphism and Realism on Judgments of Credibility and Homophily, and Avatar Choice. By Kristine L. Nowak, Mark A. Hamilton, Chelsea C. Hammond. Published in: Proceedings of the 11th Annual International Workshop on Presence, Padova, 16-18 October 2008. ISBN: 978-88-6129-287-1 
- ^ (English) RoboCoke on chatbots.org
- ^ "The Benefits of Interactive Online Characters". Byron Reeves, Stanford University. http://noahx.com/resources/CSLI_Stanford_Study.pdf.
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