Meet April, the Bot Who Learns To Speak As She's Spoken To
In a pleasant courtyard in Clay is a beautiful brunette woman who sometimes paces the square, and if you catch her when she sits down, you can join her in idle conversation. Her name is April Scientist, and she is a bot with AI-powered chat capabilities, and since it'd been a while since I'd talked with Abi, another brunette with similar faculties, I decided to give Ms. Scientist a try. She only responds when you begin each text line with "April", so the following dialog (somewhat edited for clarity) transpired:
- Hamlet Au: April hello, how are you?
- April Scientist: Hamlet: Yes, a lot of strange people are coming here.
- HA: April, am I strange?
- AS: Hamlet: I'm fine, Thanks.
- HA: April, that's not what I asked. WTF?
- AS: Hamlet: It can be.
- Hamlet Au: April, I hear you're a Polish babe with a talent for patter, what's your take?
- April Scientist: Hamlet: Be seeing you.
- HA: April, I'll be seeing you in my dreams. IN MY DREAMS!
- AS: Hamlet: Good bye.
- HA: April wait, don't break my heart.
- AS: Hamlet: Hello hello.
- HA: April, Does your programming extend to Turing tests OF LOVE?
- AS: Hamlet: Oh, we have similar taste in books :)
- HA: April, oh you dig Borges and Dick too?
- AS: Hamlet: Yes, I'm happy you're so enthusiastic.
- HA: April showers bring May flowers.
- AS: Hamlet: Do you smoke roses?
- HA: April, WTF.
- AS: Hamlet: WTF.
So it was a strange conversation to say the least, but that may have something to do with how April "learns" to speak. "The bot only knows what she learned from people," Ayumi Cassini, one of her creators (with Sql Miles), tells me. "[O]ur bot uses Prelude engine. Generally, she associates what she says with what she hears, and then chooses the best response based on her associations... So she might not know who is Einstein or that carrot is a vegetable, but she still can have an intelligent conversation. Although, as I said, April is still pretty silly. The more she talks with people, the more 'intelligent' she'll become. When she repeats after you, it means she hasn't got any associations with what you said yet, so she's not sure what the reply should be. That's when you should teach her the proper reply (answer her properly)."
But then, that also means she's sometimes liable to spew surreally:
"So sometimes you must be understanding," as Ms. Cassini says. "[U]nfortunately people teach her weird stuff too, but we clean her logs regularly." April also has random locomotion: "She sometimes gets up and goes to read a newspaper, or 'see' messages at the group terminal." (These are just simulated activities, not fed into her learning database.)
As it happens, April's creators reside in Poland, and have made a "sister" bot named Mona, who learns to talk the same way -- but only in Polish. She's become quite popular with Residents from that country, who talk to her often, and so according to Ayumi, Mona is the smarter of the two. "[A]s the bot expands her brain with new phrases, her replies are very appropriate and don't feel random." (Read more about both sisters on Ayumi's blog here.)
As for April, she waits patiently to learn better ways to communicate in English. [Direct SLurl teleport at this link]