Robot helpers are on the rise

You may not have unwrapped a robot on Christmas, but your new year will be filled with artificial intelligence.Facebook, Google, Microsoft and other technology companies, large and small, are making rapid advancements with virtual personal assistants that can solve problems and even complete tasks. “We’re going to start to see more personal assistants (in the new year), and the ones that are already online will get more useful,” said Brian Blau, an analyst at Gartner.The assistants, sometimes referred to as “chatbots,” represent noteworthy advancements to computer programs that simulate conversations. Chatbots are not new — think Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana. But in 2016, you’ll encounter different, smarter varieties of chatbots, some appearing in your favorite social media applications.”Chatbots are designed to answer questions, to perform searches, to interact with…

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