In 2000, no reference to e-Commerce was made without the word personalization following closely behind. It was the hot new technology for web sites that promised untold levels of cross-sell and up-sell opportunities, and threatened to eliminate offline shopping as we knew it. As the hype died down, for obvious dot.com reasons, the cool factor went away as well. Is personalization dead? Not as the strategic concept from which it originated. The goal of personalization was to find a way to create the offline experience online. Different channels need different strategies and the Web, as a channel, is uniquely challenged in terms of personalized, human interaction. Automating a company's best service or sales representative is no easy task. While recommendation engines were a worthy start, they hardly created a sense of human relationship. In 2001, the collaborative filtering vs. business rules battle gave way to artificial intelligence. The age of bots has arrived for web self-service and guided selling applications such as those offered by NativeMinds, Finali, RightNow, and eGain. Using natural language queries, the customer can carry on a lifelike dialog with a virtual sales or service representative. These previously standalone applications for the Web, are now being incorporated into a spectrum of service and selling strategies that are tied back into the enterprise for more consistent multichannel customer experiences. But the cool factor doesn't stop there. A new emergent to the market promises a truly innovative experience. LifeFX, Inc., based in Newton, MA, has developed the ability to apply a truly human face to the computer. Utilizing algorithms to create "photo realistic, digital human faces" that move and talk with uncanny realism, the customer now carries on a conversation with the application as though speaking directly to a human being. How's that for personalization? THE HURWITZ TAKE: As impressive as LifeFX's demonstration is, the technology is not enough to stand alone. Its success will lie in clearly demonstrating how the technology solves business problems for its customers and partners. A step in that direction is evident in the recently announced partnership with eGain. LifeFX technology will provide a face to the "brain" of the chat-bot, eGain Assistant, representing a continuation of eGain's innovation in offering a broad suite of service and support applications for its customers. Hurwitz Group has consistently critiqued earlier personalization techniques as somewhat impersonal. Customers need a more intimate experience for the Internet channel that goes far beyond customized user interfaces and recommendations based on other groups of individuals. The forthcoming generation of technologies, represented by the enhancing technology of LifeFX, shows significant promise in the quest for more personal experiences on the Web.