A conversational natural language engine allows humans and computers to converse in a natural way using typed messages. These messages may be exchanged using SMS, XMPP chat, email, or web - based chat.
Conversational interfaces are an improvement over form-filling interfaces for many applications. One of the best known examples of this is the input box on Google calendar where you can type something like '10:20 meeting at Larry's' and it will create a meeting starting at 10:20 and will set the location to 'Larry's'. This particular example is a hybrid interface where a conversational element has been integrated into a traditional form-based interface. A pure conversation interface is often called a 'chatbot'.
Conversational interfaces are particularly well suited to mobile applications where the small screen, tiny keyboard and lack of a mouse makes traditional form-filling a tedious and error prone experience.
Consider for example the simple request
what orders did we receive last month on a friday after 4pm. What would the dialog look like
to specify a query like that? What if, instead, your users could simply enter what they are looking for? That's what a
conversational natural language engine can do for your business.
A conversational interface has the following key features:
- Each party can initiate or respond to a message at any time
- Messages are not treated in isolation but understood in the overall context of the conversation including a complete history of previous messages sent or received.
Support for conversations is provided through 'Memory' objects that can be used to remember the state of a conversation and other objects that have been mentioned recently.
Techniques are also provided so that the computer can ask a question (e.g. enter your PIN number) and then, when the user enters a number, it can pair their entry up with the code to deal with it.