Automated online assistant
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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 as 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.
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.
When choosing an avatar to represent a business, it's important to make sure it makes the right impression. Avatars are subject to the principles of the Uncanny Valley and creating a lifelike, photorealistic character without proper consideration of the user experience can have a detrimental effect on web visitors' experience. Sometimes an extremely knowledgeable, intelligent and well designed system with a simple text box can be as, if not more effective.
An automated online assistant also has an expert system that provides specific service, whose scope depends on the purpose of it. This system can be described as an intelligent agent that functions to perceive the needs of customers in order to perform proper reactions by various structured systems, such as question answering.
Also, servers and other maintaining systems to keep the automated assistant online may also be regarded as components of it.
- Applications of artificial intelligence
- Computer facial animation
- Natural language processing
- Simulated reality
- Wizard (software)
- Providing Language Instructor with Artificial Intelligence Assistant. By Krzysztof Pietroszek. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning (iJET), Vol 2, No 4 (2007)  
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- Aetna's new "virtual online assistant" By Anthony O'Donnell. Insurance & Technology. June 03, 2010 Archived June 7, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
- "The Benefits of Interactive Online Characters" (PDF). Byron Reeves, Stanford University.