Natural language processing (NLP) is a branch of artificial intelligence that helps computers understand, interpret and manipulate human language. NLP draws from many disciplines, including computer science and computational linguistics, in its pursuit to fill the gap between human communication and computer understanding.
Evolution of Natural Language Processing
While natural language processing isn’t a new science, the technology is rapidly advancing thanks to an increased interest in human-to-machine communications, plus an availability of big data, powerful computing and enhanced algorithms.
As a human, you may speak and write in English, Spanish or Chinese. But a computer’s native language – known as machine code or machine language – is largely incomprehensible to most people. At your device’s lowest levels, communication occurs not with words but through millions of zeros and ones that produce logical actions.
Indeed, programmers used punch cards to communicate with the first computers 70 years ago. This manual and arduous process was understood by a relatively small number of people. Now you can say, “Alexa, I like this song,” and a device playing music in your home will lower the volume and reply, “OK. Rating saved,” in a humanlike voice. Then it adapts its algorithm to play that song – and others like it – the next time you listen to that music station.
Let’s take a closer look at that interaction. Your device activated when it heard you speak, understood the unspoken intent in the comment, executed an action and provided feedback in a well-formed English sentence, all in the space of about five seconds. The complete interaction was made possible by NLP, along with other AI elements such as machine learning and deep learning.
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