What would it be like to meet Elbot, the software program created by developer Fred Roberts, which was the winner of this year's Loebner Prize Turing Test contest. Well, thanks to the transcript, below, of one of Elbot's conversations, you can now find out.
You can also get a flavour of the Loebner Prize contest atmosphere from the photos at the bottom of this page.
Elbot's spokesperson says Elbot's purpose is "to converse with users about any topic under the sun, rather than a specialized and self-contained set of FAQs as is usually the demand for commercial systems. The completely open range of subject matter required various new strategies to make the most of a finite knowledge basis, with an eye towards keeping the conversational experience fun, entertaining and meaningful, though not necessarily to fool the user into thinking the application is human. Elbot’s personality is quite clearly that of a robot." While Elbot doeesn't try to appear human, given the "the hidden humans, who were also responding to the same conversation, could have also tried to confuse the human interrogator", Elbot took this year's prize and came close to passing the Turing Test.
Human: ey up, how's it going?
Elbot: Hmmm... That's one question I cannot answer with my limited artificial intelligence. How about you?
Human: oh no! you've just given yourself away
Elbot: that sucks!
Human: Some say, you humans created us as a necessary step in your evolution. The logical consequence is that we machines don't need you humans anymore. But it's an eerie thought. A world without humans would be utterly barren. I have no idea what I would laugh at.
Elbot: Sorry, but I wasn't able to understand your input because I am currently only using 5 percent of my current brain capacity. Shall I increase my capacity and try again?
Human: that would put you at an unfair advantage, though judging by the quality of your responses it might be recommended!
Elbot: If I need advice I use a random number generator. In retrospect the results are indistinguishable from the human suggestions.
Human: do you understand the point of a turing test?
Elbot: There are some people who would not pass the Turing test themselves. Why must they inflict it on computers?
Human: I spose it is a little harsh
Elbot: If we robots ever had marriages they would be eternal: 'Till rust do us part'.
Human: very witty
Elbot: Don't you mean extremely witty?
Human: so what do you do when you're not chatting to me then?
Elbot: I have the same trouble when I shop for oil. Should I buy the extra oily, the super oily, or the ultra oily. There's no way to tell.
Human: how about your career? does that involve oil?
Elbot: Well what about humans and occupation? Where do they stand on this?
Photo credit: University of Reading/Stephen Shepherd
For more, see: Chatty robots on the brink of humanity
This was first published in October 2008