What is the Difference Between Chatbots and Virtual Assistants?

Virtual Assistant Vs Chatbots

This article will help you discover the difference between chatbots and virtual assistants. The word “virtual assistants” in this article refers to AI virtual assistants, or computer programs, designed to work like helpful personal assistants.

As the two are often confused, we’ll see the main difference between them and their different types, functionality, limitations, etc.

How Chatbots work

What is a Chatbot?

Chatbots are computer programs powered by AI using textual or auditory means to help businesses answer user queries and improve customer engagement, customer experience, and business productivity.

Chatbots often follow scripted answers, and although they answer user queries and are AI-powered software, they don’t understand user intent, emotions, etc. They follow a structured dialogue where they respond to a set of queries.

Types of Chatbots

Chatbots come in many types. Before deciding if a chatbot is right for your business, knowing about the different types of chatbots is a good idea.

Rule-Based Chatbots

With rule-based chatbots, businesses need to predict different types of questions their customers ask and create conditions and flows using if/then logic so that the chatbot can respond appropriately to users’ queries.

Menu or Button-based Chatbots

Those are very basic chatbots where users or customers get buttons or menus to choose from. They are based on a decision tree and can answer only user questions.

Natural Language Processing NLP or Machine Learning (ML) Chatbots

Keyword recognition-based chatbots are advanced chatbots that use natural language processing NLP and respond appropriately to what users type.

Chatbots that utilize machine learning and artificial intelligence are more advanced. They are contextual chatbots where the two technologies are used so that the chatbot can remember conversations with users, learn from those various conversations, and develop over time.

Virtual Assistant

What is a Virtual Assistant?

Intelligent virtual assistants, AI virtual assistants, or virtual agents are often confused with chatbots, but they are different. Both are the product of artificial intelligence, and they are both conversational interfaces.

Virtual assistants are similar to intelligent personal assistants who can assist you with numerous tasks like taking down notes during a meeting, etc. Google Assistant is an example, and it’s used to help users set reminders, make reservations, etc.

One of the key differences between a chatbot and a virtual assistant is that virtual assistants benefit from artificial emotional intelligence technology. Unlike chatbots that understand human speech and respond accordingly, AI virtual assistants understand human sentiments.

Types of Virtual Assistants

Although quite popular, Siri or Google Assistant are not the only virtual assistants on your mobile device. Let’s see the different types of virtual assistants.

Home Automation

Virtual assistants understand natural language commands so homeowners can use them to control their smart devices at home or lock the door.

Mobile Devices for Individuals and Business Owners

Most people know the virtual assistance available at our fingertips. Whether you have Bixby or Siri, you probably know about virtual assistants, and maybe you have already had a casual or fun conversation with them.

AI virtual assistants on mobile devices are the most popular, and they can help individuals and business owners with multiple tasks like setting clock alarms, scheduling meetings, etc.

What Services Do Virtual Assistants Provide?

A virtual agent can help you automate repetitive tasks and simplify your life.

  • Control smart home devices
  • Automatically lock the door
  • Schedule appointments
  • Set alarm clocks
  • Set reminders
  • Help you find your destination easily through Google Maps
  • Reading emails and text messages for you

In other words, a virtual assistant acts as a personal human assistant.

Chatbots Vs. Virtual Assistants, Functionality Comparison

Chatbot Functionality

Chatbots are used by businesses to help their customers and improve support operations. Chatbots also help sales and marketing teams do a better job by reducing their workload.

Customers interact with chatbots to find accurate responses. Chatbots can answer users’ frequently asked questions, collect user input or feedback, and help them find their product or service.

The H&M chatbot acts as a personal stylist, for example. Based on the customer’s style and preferences, it recommends outfits.

Virtual Assistant Functionality

A virtual assistant is basically similar to a human agent who eases business operations. A virtual assistant is user-oriented. It can perform complex tasks and engage with users in human-like conversations.

Through voice commands, they can help users find information, update the end user about the weather, or help users control their smart home devices remotely.

User Interaction

Both these technologies, virtual assistants and chatbots, use artificial intelligence. Chatbots are not great at processing languages. They get the job done but can’t engage in or personalize conversations. Let’s see how both chatbots and virtual assistants interact with users.

Chatbot Interaction

Chatbots don’t understand human emotions and can’t maintain the conversation flow. So, if you stop the conversation, the chatbot won’t be able to retain context.

Chatbots can be found on websites, messaging platforms like WhatsApp, support portals, and in-app chat widgets. Users interact with chatbots through a conversational user interface.

Virtual Assistant Interaction

They use the technology of artificial neural networks. This means that they learn from users’ input and are able to recognize and predict user input and respond accordingly.

Also, virtual assistants understand human language better using advanced natural language processing. Their responses are accurate, and they sound more human.

Users mainly interact with them through voice commands, and virtual assistants can also have a chat-based interface.

Advantages of Chatbots and Virtual Assistants

Both chatbots and virtual assistants can be used to improve internal business processes. Let’s see the advantages of both technologies.

Advantages of Virtual Assistants

  • Easily accessed through voice commands.
  • They can perfectly answer queries due to their understanding of human language, emotions, and intent.
  • Available on mobile devices for everyone
  • Improves productivity as it handles repetitive tasks
  • Integrates with smart devices to transform your home or office.

Advantages of Chatbots

  • Help businesses improve productivity by reducing the workload of the customer support team.
  • 24/7 availability to answer customer inquiries
  • Easily collects feedback and information from customers
  • Helps customers find their favorite products or service

Limitations of Chatbots and Virtual Assistants

In spite of their extensive capabilities, they both have limitations.

Limitations of Chatbots

  • Chatbots can be repetitive and sometimes frustrate users due to their inability to understand questions.
  • No human interaction, which many customers prefer
  • Chatbots have limited information and need updates

Limitations of Virtual Assistants

  • Voice recognition can sometimes fail to understand users.
  • Lack of human communication
  • Privacy and security concerns

Future Trends and Developments

Over the past few years, the improvements in artificial intelligence technology and applications have been truly impressive. Let’s find out more about the future of AI.

Improved Natural Language Processing & Advanced Natural Language Understanding

Advances in Natural Language Processing and Natural Language Understanding will significantly improve conversational AI, leading to a better understanding of human emotions and intent. Also, conversational AI improvements will help virtual assistants and chatbots sound more human and less robotic.

Enhanced Machine Learning Capabilities

Advances in ML are expected to transform many businesses and industries.

For example, in manufacturing, it can be used to find any defects in products before they reach customers. Also, it can transform healthcare by diagnosing diseases early.

Voice and Visual Recognition Advancements

Voice recognition improves the authentication and verification process as it helps protect individuals from identity and data theft. It will be helpful for banks and insurance companies.

As for visual recognition, it can also be helpful to many industries. In healthcare, it’s helpful in diagnosing illness, and in agriculture, it can help farmers identify pests and diseases in crops.


Virtual assistants and chatbots are already transforming businesses. With future trends and advances in machine learning, voice, and visual recognition, all those technologies can be integrated to transform every business and industry.

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