Fifth Annual Chatterbox Challenge Underway

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Over 100 chatbots from around the world are taking part in the fifth annual Chatterbox Challenge. Contest organiser Wendell Cowart and chatbot developer John Precedo talk about the contest.

Over 100 chatbots from around the world are taking part in the fifth annual Chatterbox Challenge. Chatbots are computer programmes designed to imitate human conversation, with the eventual aim of creating true virtual personalities and artificial intelligences. The Chatterbox Challenge runs until 30th April and Internet users can talk to the competing chatbots through the competition web site at http://www.chatterboxchallenge.com.

The chatbots range from AOL and IRC chatroom and instant messaging bots to moving faces with synthesised speech. This year a special category has been created for the many bots built with the Personality Forge system. The competition is being sponsored again by James Livingood, an Artificial Intelligence enthusiast from the USA. Last year's competition was won by Alice, a famous chatbot built by Dr Richard Wallace. Top contenders include A.I. Alex, Elbot, Ella, Jabberwacky and Talk-bot.

During the competition the chatbots are quizzed by judges to see how much they know, and how well they can conduct a normal "human" conversation. Points are also awarded for personality and additional capabilities - such as remembering visitors or being able to access web based services - such as Google and Amazon.

One prize is for the most popular chatbot. This is awarded on the basis of votes cast at the site. Everybody is invited to visit the site and talk to the bots, and vote for their favourite.

Chatterbox Challenge organiser Wendell Cowart says "Chatterbox Challenge is the ideal opportunity for chatbot developers to show off their chatbots, and compare themselves with the best chatbots in the world. The sheer variety of the chatbots entered is quite amazing. Some are based around knowing lots of things from the outset, whereas others are programmed to learn as they go along." Chris adds "Chatbot names range from Aib to Zoe, and personalities vary from a banjo plucking hill-billy to a serial killer. New entries this year include Barry DeFacto from two times Loebner winner Robby Garner, and RoboMatix X1 from Egypt - a PC based Operating System Assistant".

London based chatbot developer John Precedo says "The contest gives chatbot designers a real opportunity to find out just how good our chatbots are. My chatbot - A.I. Alex - started off as a hobby but has developed to be quite good. Some of the other bots are radically different in approach and design, and it will be interesting to see how they do against each other. "

Chatbot technology is likely to become more and more prevalent in the coming years. Web sites using chatbots as virtual sales assistants are already reporting a 100% increase in traffic. The growth in use of large screen TVs at home, and the idea of the PC as the homes media center also opens up the real possibility of having a virtual assistant at home to provide a more friendly interface to the web and to digital systems in the home. The Chatterbox Challenge gives developers and members of the general public the chance to see just how fast this technology is progressing. The winner of the $1000 prize will be announced in early May 2005.

Notes for Editors:

1. Chatbots are just one element in the development of artificial intelligence. The Internet has enabled AI research to move out from the university labs and on to the PCs of AI enthusiast across the globe. Through web sites and chat systems such as IRC, chatbots are able to talk to a large number of Internet users, which is vital given that one of the secrets to chatbot development is having a large number of conversations between the chatbot and humans to analyse. The ultimate goal for all chatbot pioneers is the Turing Prize - named after the British World War 2 scientist Alan Turing. The core of the Prize is a test where a human tries to tell whether the character they are talking to over a computer link is a real person or a chatbot.

2. Chatterbox Challenge is run on a volunteer basis by Wendell Cowart and a team of supporters. 15 people have been selected from the general public to serve as judges for the contest.

Images of the chatbots and some of their creators are available at http://www.chatterboxchallenge.com

Links

Chatterbox Challenge Web Site - http://www.chatterboxchallenge.com
A.I. Alex - http://ai-alex.propercomfy.co.uk
Advanced Chatbot Solutions - http://www.chatbots.co.uk

For more information please contact either:

Wendell Cowart (US - Chatterbox Challenge): +1 912 764 5130 or email d_cowart@yahoo.com

John Precedo (UK - A.I. Alex Chatbot): +44 (0)7941 320 923 or replabjohn@hotmail.com

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