This article is going to give you a brief background on Chatbots as well as introduce you to some of the more famous & interesting examples. Chatbots or Chatterbots are computational programs designed to simulate intelligent conversation with a human via text messaging or text to speech applications. These are the types of artificial intelligence designed to try and pass the Turing Test. Chatbots can be simplistic – (1) scanning the words they hear (2) searching for keywords (3) acting based on the keywords found. They can also be increasingly complex – using natural language processing systems to understand deeper context within human conversation.
If you surf the internet enough, you will have come across a Chatbot in the wild. They are often used on E-Commerce sites to direct customer enquiries in the form of an ‘online assistant’ popup. Many large firms have already replaced call centre workers with Chatbots as the first point on contact for telephone calls. These companies include Lloyd’s Banking, Royal Bank of Scotland, Renault and Citroen.
Tay: 2016: Tay was an AI Chatbot produced and released by Microsoft in March 2016. Tay was designed to mimic the conversational attributes of a 19-year-old American girl and to learn from interacting with humans via Twitter. It took less than 16 hours for Tay to mimic humanity in the worst way possible – by producing strings of racist and homophobic tweets. The whole episode provides an insight into human interaction on the web. She remains dormant for now – with Microsoft saying they will only reactivate the bot once they can “better anticipate malicious intent that conflicts with our principles and values”. Like they have any!
Albert One: 1998 & 1999 Loebner Winner: Albert was a really ground breaking bot in its day. Developed by Robby Garner, parts of the bot were deployed to the internet back in 1995 to gather data about what sorts of things a person would say to a chatbot. Using this information, a large database of human statements was constructed and appropriate replies were drafted for each statement. Albert won the Loebner prize (based on the Turing test) for two consecutive years in 1998 and 1999.
Eugene Goostman: 2012 Turing 100 Winner: Eugene shot to fame in 2012, but was in the making since 2001. Goostman portrayed a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy (note: the program was pretty close in age ha-ha) when it won the largest ever Turing test in 2012, convincing 29% of the judges that it was human. The bots win created controversy as its portrayed age and linguistic background (non-English) may have led to leniency on behalf of the judges.
Mitsuku: 2013 Loebner Winner: Mitsuku claims to be an 18-year-old female from Leeds and is available to interact with on Skype and Kik Messenger under the name “Pandorabots”. “Her intelligence includes the ability to reason with specific objects. For example, if someone says “Can you eat a house?”, Mitsuku looks up the properties for “house”. Finds the value of “made_from” is set to “brick” and replies no, as a house is not edible”. Mitsuku has conversed with millions of people worldwide and has been featured in articles with the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company and the Guardian.
Those in the know believe Chatbots are going to revolutionize a whole range of white collar and administration positions in the near term future. We look forward to further exploring their potential upsides and downsides in the future.