What is a Conversational Agent?
A conversational agent is any dialogue system that not only conducts natural language processing but also responds automatically using human language. These agents represent the practical implementation of computational linguistics, usually employed as chatbots over the internet or as portable device assistants. This interpretation/response interaction doesn’t have to be conducted just with text.
The dialogue system can also read from (input channel) and respond with (output channel) speech, graphics, virtual gesture or haptic-assisted physical gestures.
How do Dialogue Systems Work?
The first step is to convert the real-world input into a universal machine code using some type of automatic speech recognizer (ASR), or optical gesture/handwriting recognizer.
That input is then interpreted using some form of Natural Language Understanding Unit (NLU). This goes beyond standard Natural Language Processing by including proper name identification, part of speech tagging and a syntactic/semantic parser.
Parallel with the interpretation, a dialog manager tracks the dialog’s history and state, generally keeping the conversation on a logical track by activating/deactivating appropriate sub task domains.
Finally, the response is sent to an output generator, usually matching whatever the input format was.