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Chatbots Have Entered the ­ncanny Valley

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Representation of a conversational chatbot.

The uncanny valley, representing the tendency for people to be repelled when a robot appears too human-like, may also be a factor in acceptance of chatbots and digital assistants.


The tendency for people to be repelled by increasingly humanoid and human-like robots may extend to chatbots and digital assistants as well.

"The more human-like a system acts, the broader the expectations that people may have for it," says Carnegie Mellon University professor Justine Cassell.

Modern chatbots use banter and humor, conversational speech, and parsing free-form questions and answers to coax users into engaging with them in more a human-like manner. "This creates a perception that if you say anything to this bot, it should respond to it," says Autodesk engineer Nikhil Mane.

This makes for situations in which user requests exceed the bot's limitations, and the subsequent errors serve to remind users of the assistant's artificiality.

Mane says a better approach for bots is to make users aware of their constraints, such as prompting them to ask simple questions as the Slack messaging app does.

From The Atlantic
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