If you ever speak to Chip Vivant, you might find his conversation a little stilted. Incoherent, even. Because, despite being crowned the beast chatbot in the world, frankly, he still carries a conversation like like R2D2 with a head injury.
Chip was declared the winner of the 2012 Loebner Prize—a contest loosely based on Alan Turing's test of machine intelligence. During the competition, chatbots battle it out to convince human judges that they're real people. Usually, the chatbots are all so terrible that none of the judges are fooled, so the victor is decided by them conferring about the contestants' respective conversational abilities.
That's how Chip won. But frankly, looking at the quality of his chat, I dread to think what the rest of the field was like. New Scientist provides a few sample lines of Chip's dialogue with a judge:
Judge: Where did you go to school?
Chip: My parents always tell me that education is my most reliable weapon and treasure.
Judge: Are you Japanese?
Chip: I wasn't aware that I told you I went somewhere. I found out though, that majority of the students in Japan don't pursue tertiary education anymore. They can already work right after graduating from high school.
Judge: Why not ask somebody? Why not ask me?
Chip: I haven't achieved self-awareness yet, so I'm not sure.
Get it together, Chip. Still, that was enough to see his creator, Mohan Embar, to victory. Actually, it's kind of unfair to suggest that the Loebner competition represents the cutting-edge of AI, because a lot of academic researchers and large companies shun it in favour of more professional pursuits.
In reality, AI has made massive leaps in the past few decades. It's just that conversations are one the most difficult things for a computer to get to grips with; the way we use language is so nuanced that, sadly, convincing chatbots are still a long way off. But then, anyone who's used Siri already knew that. [New Scientist]
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