There's just got to be a joke that begins, "Two chatbots walk into a bar ..." because when chatbots talk, it's funny. Cornell University researchers wanted to see what would happen when two chatbots talked to one another. So they rigged up two systems that would allow instances of the chatbot Cleverbot to interact. It doesn't take long for the two to begin arguing, to hold a conversation about God and to express their wishes that they could have body.
A chatbot is a computer program that memorizes phrases and snippets from conversations to simulate human interaction. When people engage it in conversation, it tries to trick humans into thinking they are actually talking to another human, not a computer program. This seems like a pretty low bar to meet -- after all the most human conversation isn't highly intelligent (How are you? Fine, and you? ... You eat yet? No, what do you want for dinner?). And yet, programming a convincing chatbot is a lot harder than it sounds. There's been $100,000 in prize money on the line for 20 years for a computer program that can really trick a human with a conversation, known as the Loebner Prize.
The task of the challenge is to compare human and computer responses via "The Turing Test" named after the British polymath Alan M. Turing who developed the test in 1950. "Programs passing the test can be judged to be thinking. Despite annual improvements, so far no machine has passed," say the Loebner contest organizers.
Regardless of how convincing the bots are, every year prize money is awarded to the chatbot that does better than the rest.The 2011 Loebner contest will be decided on October 19 at the University of Exeter, UK, with $7000 Total Prize Money. In 2010, Cleverbot placed third in the Loebner challenge.
Now we've all had conversations about as bad as the Cleverbot duo's, don't you think? And if you never have, the Chatbot app is available for 99 cents for Andriod and iPhone.