Systems Engineering and Conversational Agents

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This chapter describes Conversational Agents (CAs) in the context of Systems Engineering. A CA is a computer program which interacts with a user through natural language dialogue and provides some form of service. CA technology has two points of interest to systems engineers: the use of systems engineering techniques in CA research and the application of CAs in project development. CAs offer the opportunity to automate more complex applications than are feasible with conventional web interfaces. Currently such applications require a human expert in the domain to mediate between the user and the application. The CA effectively replaces the human expert. This chapter reviews the current capabilities of various CA technologies, outlines a development methodology for systems engineering practitioners interested in developing real world applications and suggests a number of directions for systems engineers who wish to participate in CA research.