'

Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 16/10/2001Alice? ALICE? A.L.I.C.E.? One of the eternal niggles of being a computer journalist is that people come up with the...

Tuesday 16/10/2001

Alice? ALICE? A.L.I.C.E.? One of the eternal niggles of being a computer journalist is that people come up with the stupidest names for things and then expect you to replicate their ugliness exactly in print. The Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity is one such -- it might have won a bronze medal in the Loebner Prize for artificial intelligence, judged in the Science Museum this weekend, but we draw the line at writing the required A.L.I.C.E. each and every time we have to mention it.

Otherwise, ALICE is a good example of a chatterbot. It's quite entertaining talking to it, although nobody would think of it as a human for a second. It manages to avoid the traps that normally floor this sort of thing (""What is 2 plus 2?" "What do you think of when you say 2?" "Just tell me the answer! You're a computer!" etc) but has plenty of its own. But in essence, it's still the same game people have been playing for decades -- and with all the serious hardware and software tools around, nobody does conversational robots any better now than they did in 1970.

Which is sad -- unless, of course, you know better...