Virtual agent technologies have evolved over the past two decades from simple pattern matching programs, to systems understanding natural language and intent, to extremely powerful question answering computers. All of these technologies are still available and have their place. As I noted in a previous post, local business owners can leverage simple chatbots to add spice to their websites and engage customers. More capable virtual agents that use natural language processing and search have proven their value in the customer service realm. These agents are available to interact with consumers when and where they shop, on mobile, websites, or embedded in social media channels. Cognitive computers like IBM’s Watson offer a whole new level of emerging capability. These powerful processing agents can possibly assist in healthcare scenarios, provide real time insights to financial analysts, and generally offer a new type of quick response, deeply knowledgeable consulting to aid humans in all aspects of their lives. To illustrate the evolution of virtual agent technologies, I’ve put together the Evolution of Virtual Agent Technology infographic. You can click on the above graphic to see an enlarged image.