Chatbots are getting more and more advanced, primarily to two AI-related technologies – machine learning and NLP (natural language processing). The latter technology enables chatbots to understand how human language works. It also allows them to understand the requests and communication in such language. In this article, we want to show you how NLP is making modern chatbots more accurate and natural in communication.
How does NLP work with chatbots?
Put simply, NLP is an AI-related technology that focuses on enabling machines to understand, interpret, and generate human-like responses and messages. In simple terms, NLP is a combination of linguistic rules, statistical models, and machine-learning techniques that are used to process and understand human language. Thanks to this technology, diverse algorithms and machines – including chatbots – can communicate with humans in the way they understand and find natural.
Over the years, NLP has undergone significant advancements, allowing chatbots to evolve from basic rule-based systems to context-aware conversational AI tools. In the past, chatbots relied solely on predefined rules and matching keywords (e.g., a request that contained the phrase “product return” would trigger a given chatbot to provide information on the store’s return policy) to generate responses. Of course, this meant that the complexity of those conversations was severely limited.
Nowadays, modern chatbots equipped with NLP algorithms are much better at understanding context, sentiment, and even nuanced human language.
One of the key contributions of NLP algorithms to chatbot interactions is the ability to grasp and retain context throughout the whole conversation with a customer/user. With traditional, rule-based chatbots, it was virtually impossible. NLP-powered chatbots, on the other hand, are far superior when it comes to understanding the flow of conversation. As a result, they can:
- Remember conversation history
- Save customer preferences
- Deliver personalized messages and responses
Moreover, NLP algorithms allow chatbots to adjust their responses based on the ongoing conversation. For example, a user inquiring about product availability may follow up with questions like “When will this product be available again?” And the chatbot can respond appropriately, providing estimations on product availability in the future.
PERSONALIZATION OF COMMUNICATION
By analyzing user inputs and understanding their intent, NLP-equipped chatbots can tailor responses to individual circumstances, thus offering more engaging and personalized interactions and creating more meaningful communication with users, going far beyond generic responses.
What’s also important is that NLP algorithms working for chatbot interactions give them the ability to perform sentiment analysis. Sentiment analysis is all about understanding the emotional tone behind user inputs (usually, these systems recognize three tones – positive, negative, and neutral). Sentiment analysis is what allows chatbots to respond appropriately to user sentiments (and, e.g., apologize for inconvenience if they detect that the customer is upset).
Challenges in NLP-powered chatbots
Even though NLP has been a huge game-changer for modern chatbots, enabling them to communicate in a more human-like way, there are still some challenges to consider. These challenges comprise, i.a.:
- Ambiguities in language (human language is not just words, but also the way we say them; written language cannot provide all the information that’s available in face-to-face interactions)
- Cultural nuances (chatbots cannot recognize the culture or nationality of a person they talk to)
- Slang, jokes, sarcasm (chatbots can still understand basic, normal language; they’re still not good with slang or common expressions, and they have no sense of humor)
Naturally, researchers and developers are continually working on those issues, but there’s still a lot to achieve. In the next part of this post, we will tell you more about the possible future development and possibilities.
The future of NLP in chatbots
Undoubtedly, NLP, as well as AI-powered chatbots, will continue to evolve. We can expect to see further improvements in language models, increased computing power, and a better understanding of human language and its nuances. In the near future, chatbots that use NLP will be even more natural and even better at communicating with customers and users in a meaningful, personalized, and natural way.
NEW LANGUAGE MODELS
For starters, we can expect the development of more contextually-aware language models. These models already fuel the most advanced chatbots such as ChatGPT, and they are trained on huge language datasets comprising books, articles, and numerous online sources. Such language models will continue to give modern chatbots enhanced linguistic proficiency and the ability to navigate complex customer conversations.
It’s one of the latest trends in modern chatbots. Now, they are not only about text-based interactions, but they can also use and understand visual content, including images and voice recognition. Again, this is something that allows these chatbots to comprehend and respond to a broader spectrum of user inputs. Imagine a customer pasting the image of the product they’re looking for and the chatbot sending them a link to the right product subpage. That’s what multimodal capabilities are about.
In conclusion, NLP algorithms are the “driving force” behind modern chatbots. They allow them to understand the context of each conversation, analyze its sentiment, and adapt to the nuances of human language. In the near future, we will see more personalized, engaging, and context-aware chatbots that are capable of communicating with customers almost 100% like humans. Most likely, those chatbots will also be better with such concepts as a sense of humor or sarcasm, leading to an all-new stage in the development of conversational AI.