130 different synonyms are used to refer to ‘chat bot’, claims Chatbots.org

Chatbots.org - Virtual assistants & virtual agentsA compilation of 130 different terms used to discuss chatbots has been released by Chatbots.org, the leading business and research community in humanlike conversational AI. Chatbots.org hopes that the list’s release will stimulate discussion in the industry to better standardise terminology.

A chat bot is an animated character with artificial intelligence (AI), appearing on websites, in games or in smart phone apps, and which often looks like a virtual human. These avatars are able to hold conversations, either text based or spoken, with human partners.

Although the virtual assistant industry is expected to grow fast, the terminology used is quite inconsistent and often confusing. Chatbots.org has identified 130 synonyms, some of which have slightly different implications. The most popular terms are:

Chatbots.org - Virtual assistants & virtual agentsVirtual human: A 3D animated human being with conversation skills. Although generic, the drawback of ‘virtual human’ is that it still cannot be used for all AI characters. A zoo for example, might want to employ an intelligent virtual ape to act as a host on the website or on site to inform and engage visitors. Furthermore, virtual human is also often used for 3D models of the body: organs, bones and nerves, instead of the social skills of the human being.

Avatars: Although traditionally used for the visual part of animated 3D characters, ‘avatars’ is now also being used to address their behavior, intelligence and language skills. It is being used by corporate buyers of virtual assistants for call centers especially, even more so in the US market. Being a homonym, i.e. a term with multiple meanings, the movie ‘Avatar‘, as well as the deep religious meaning of the term makes the usage controversial.

Conversational agent: Despite being used often in the academic field and being well defined within the community, ‘conversational agent’ is rarely used by businesses and amateurs. This term deserves more attention by businesses.

Chatbot: The oldest term, a contraction of chat and robot; an automated chat system. The term ‘chatbot’ is slightly more informal than conversational agent and is therefore widely adopted by many AI developers, businesses and academics around the world. A chatbot is sometimes referred to as ‘chatterbot’. Due to its informal implications, however, it is also explicitly avoided by a few companies for serious web self-service applications.

Virtual agent: Although widely used by businesses for automated chat services in their customer service pages, ‘virtual agent’ is also used by academics for embodied agents explicitly lacking conversational skills. Neither community respects the meaning of the other, so a compromise between businesses and researchers is not very likely.

Virtual assistant: Although used for deployment of virtual humans in customer service web pages or companies, ‘virtual assistant’ is used far more often to describe someone assisting another person over a distance, such as a personal assistant working from home. Nevertheless, the popularity of using ‘virtual assistant’ as a chatbot synonym is growing.

Chatbots.org, advancing humanlike conversational AI worldwide, intends to initiate the discussion between industry leaders and key research institutions to reduce this amazingly long list of 130 synonyms and help move the exciting chatbot field forward.

Find out more about these and other synonyms used by researchers and the industry at:


About Chatbots.org
Chatbots.org is the leading community on humanlike conversation artificial intelligence, such as a chat bot, virtual assistants, virtual humans, and avatars. With more than 9,000 members, academics, businesses and individuals, it helps to advance the industry for all involved with virtual humans.

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