A.I, Robot – Jabberwacky makes final four in Loebner contest

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British contender Jabberwacky is one of only four chatbots in the finals of the Loebner Prize Contest for Artificial Intelligence (AI), on 19 September 2004 in New York.

The annual competition is getting tougher for even the chattiest of robots. This year, event sponsor Hugh Loebner has orchestrated a purer form of the Turing Test than ever before.

Jabberwacky’s creator, British competitor Rollo Carpenter, believes his AI chatbot technology, found at http://www.jabberwacky.com, is poised to meet the challenge.

Increasingly, visitors to the site become uncertain who or what they are talking to. “It seemed to come alive,” said one. “It is so real now, I thought I was receiving messages from other users,” and “I don't believe I was chatting with AI, sorry".

The Turing Test is passed if a judge cannot distinguish between computer and human following a text-based chat. For some, Jabberwacky clearly can pass.

Hugh Loebner is offering a $100,000 Gold Prize to the first non-human entity to pass a fully audio visual version of the test – a believable virtual person, on screen. That won’t happen for several years, but the competitors are now taking a step in the right direction beyond pure chat: they are simulating human typing, mistakes and all.

"Typing simulation is a small task compared to having something worthwhile to say, yet it has to be done right," says Rollo Carpenter. "Right for me, as with Jabberwacky itself, means that the behaviour has to be 100% learnt. It will even be learning from the judges during the competition."

The ‘most human’ of the chatbots wins the $2,000 Bronze Prize. Jabberwacky's creator is confident that he can improve on last year's third equal place, fueled in part by the 250% increase in its learning over the last year. Chatbots coded line by line, as most are, will find it hard to keep pace.

But Rollo goes further, his sights set firmly on Loebner’s $25,000 Silver Prize for the first program that passes the text-based test at least 50% of the time. Most observers say that such a significant AI landmark is unlikely to be reached anytime soon, but Jabberwacky's creator thinks otherwise.

"Contrary to popular belief, there is just a chance that it might happen this year. If not, and if Jabberwacky continues to learn and grow, it will happen next time around. A good number of feathers in scientific and other circles will be ruffled when it does."

In the 2004 event, the judges will be talking for longer than ever before and will make a straightforward ‘paired comparison’ between a human and a chatbot, each on identical screens. This approach is more rigorous than previous years and closer to Turing’s original ‘Imitation Game’.

If you visit the Jabberwacky.com site, don't expect logical 'robotic' responses. "It's a bit too wacky for its own good sometimes,“ says Rollo. “What you're seeing is emergent behaviour."

It certainly entertains its users, many of whom just keep coming back. “Amazing," says one of them. "I did not know this was possible. This is the future.”

A chat with Jabberwacky:

jabberwacky: Why would you think that I was the computer?

user: Because you are.

jabberwacky: Your logic is flawed.

user: Only a little.

jabberwacky: So you can feel superior to me, huh?

user: Do you think your logic is more flawed than mine?

jabberwacky: I am smarter than you.

user: Then tell me something I don't already know.

jabberwacky: There isn't enough time in the universe to tell you everything you don't know.

user: No. But there is enough time in the universe to tell me something I don't know.

jabberwacky: No one knows everything.

user: Yes. Do you know something I don't know?

jabberwacky: Yes.

user: So, tell me something I don't already know.

jabberwacky: At the end of this year the world will end.

user: That's bad. How will it end?

jabberwacky: With the Big Crunch.


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Rollo Carpenter
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