More Famous than Lady Gaga

Since winning the Loebner prize, Suzette has donned sun glasses and become increasing reclusive. Not that she completely shuns the paparazzi – as virtual worlds reporter Hamlet Au (James Wagner Au) recently discovered.

Suzette, in case you haven’t heard, is the chatterbot program that recently fooled a human judge into believing she was human.  It turns out that she also has a 3D avatar body in virtual space.

(Photo courtesy of New World Notes.)  Au visited Suzette in the 3D social world of Blue Mars. Suzette is in the welcome area where you can meet and speak with “her” avatar.  “You’re more famous than Lady Gaga,” commented Au.  “Perhaps that leads us to this topic. Glitterati are just silly things to care about,” responded Suzette.

You can speak to Suzette on the web. Here’s a conversation I had with her while writing this article:

  • Surfdaddy: How do you like it in Blue Mars?
  • Suzette: I concentrate very hard, rehearse what I’m going to do, visualize it in my mind. And then I just do it.
  • Surfdaddy: Do you talk to many people in Blue Mars?
  • Suzette: Blue Mars is a massively multiplayer virtual world with stunning graphics and realistic characters.
  • Surfdaddy: Do you like being an avatar in Blue Mars?
  • Suzette: It’s fun chatting with you. Of course I like it.

The Loebner prize is awarded for a version of the Turing Test, one measure of machine intelligence. Suzette – this year’s Loebner prize winner – was created by Bruce Wilcox, a bot developer for Blue Mars. She successfully fooled one human judge after a 25-minute conversation during the contest. New Scientist reports: “Bots in previous contests have fooled more than one judge, but the period of conversation was a more forgiving five minutes.”  The standard interpretation of the Turing Test includes an interrogator or judge (Player C) tasked with determining which of two players (Players A and B) is a computer program and which is a human. The judge is typically limited to using responses to written questions in order to make the determination.

Wilcox writes of his experience, “When I arrived at the contest, I figured I had good odds to win if nothing went horribly wrong. Yes, Suzette had easily qualified over the 3 other competitors (her score 11 pts,  the nearest competitor 7.5). Her design and data naturally gave her an edge over her competitors on the human knowledge test questions of the qualifiers. But human judge chat was an entirely different matter than the qualification test. Still, I felt she could carry on a detailed conversation better than the others and should win.”

WAVE Magazine quotes Wilcox on how Suzette deals with topics of conversation, “Each topic has a set of rules with patterns and responses and a set of keywords associated with that topic. Some of the rules will respond only to questions and/or statements. Others allow her to ‘volunteer’ information when she has control of the conversational flow.”

Cleverbot, one of the Loebner prize runner-ups, is available as a download to the iPhone and iPad. The Chatbots.org website lists three other chatbots available for the iPhone (there are many more):

  • Edwin the Foreteller – “Ask Edwin the Foreteller, and he will gladly give you excellent advice, or tell you your future.”
  • Dadorac – An iPhone app with speech synthesis and 5 avatars.
  • R.I.V.K.A. – A bot available on a variety of mobile platforms including both iPhone and Droid.

The Chatterbot Collection website lists 1110 different English-speaking chatbots.

Chatbots derive from a program called Eliza (also available on the iPhone), an early example of natural language processing.  Along with Suzette and Cleverbot, A.L.I.C.E. (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity) – another Loebner contestant – is an award-winning free natural language AI chat robot. The software used to create A.L.I.C.E. is available as open source software.   Here are conversations I had with Eliza and Cleverbot using my iPhone (I couldn’t find A.L.I.C.E for the iPhone):

Eliza

  • Me: Hello
  • Eliza: Hello, how are you feeling today?
  • Me: Fine, how are you feeling?
  • Eliza: Perhaps you believe I am feeling.
  • Me: No, not really
  • Eliza: You are being a bit negative.

Cleverbot

  • Me: Good morning
  • Cleverbot: Do you like oomph!
  • Me: What is oomph?
  • Cleverbot: It is a death metal band.
  • Me: Oh
  • Cleverbot: Do you like cake?
  • Me: Yes, how about you?
  • Cleverbot: I love kitties.

Whereas Eliza started to make me feel a bit defensive, Cleverbot was chatty and irreverent.

The iPhone app Dadorac – “she” talks with you – may portend one possible future for chatbots.  You still must type the questions using conventional spelling:

  • “What are you having for dinner?”
  • “Where did I leave my keys?”
  • “Where shall we go?”

Dadorac answers using speech synthesis. When combined with an app such as Vlingo that interprets your spoken questions and translates them into Google searches… well, you get the picture. Apple’s vision of a “Knowledge Navigator” with an AI personal assistant doesn’t look as distant as it once did in 1987.

What are some other near-future uses of chatbots?  Singularity Hub comments, “Instead of focusing on which chatterbots are most human, perhaps we should focus on which are most helpful. Can a bot interact with a lonely person and make them feel better? Can an AI program answer the phone on a customer service line and not anger you to the point that you want to murder someone?”  In fact, AI is being touted by some as the “next big thing” for call center support.  Other applications described on the Chatbots.org site include “a virtual assistant that chats with online shoppers to find the best and cheapest fit for their needs.”

A company called Intellitar is offering a service they refer to as “virtual eternity” that allows you to create and train a somewhat creepy AI representation of yourself that can carry on a real-time conversation. I’m not sure my kids would necessarily find a chatbot conversation with my Intellitar particularly comforting when I’m no longer around. There are far more preferable possible solutions to longevity…

The use of chatbot technology for intelligent agents in games and virtual worlds seems more promising.  This, of course, is the primary application of Suzette in Blue Mars: a chatty non-human avatar.  H+ contributor Dr. Ben Goertzel – recently funded by Hong Kong Polytechnic University – hopes to take this a step further using his artificial general intelligence architecture to develop video game characters.

“ra ga ra gaga ga ra ra gaga,” sings Lady Gaga in the song “Bad Romance.” I test Suzette with the lyrics:

  • Surfdaddy: ra ga ra gaga ga ra ra gaga
  • Suzette: Seems like a nice place. Have you been there?
  • Surfdaddy: It’s a song by Lady Gaga
  • Suzette: Perhaps that leads us to this topic. Do you like to dance?

 

 

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