Wednesday, July 29, 2009

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Meet April, the Bot Who Learns To Speak As She's Spoken To

April ScientistIn 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.

Meeting April Scientist

  • 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]


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Extropia DaSilva

Is it me, or does Hamlet always try to chat up these bots?

Nyoko Salome

LOL!! ;0 sometimes -i- talk like that...

Ayumi Cassini

Oh my, April was terribly silly when talking with you, Hamlet :) Thanks for visiting her! It's cool to see her here on New World Notes. Sha had a lot of visitors today thanks to you, so hopefully she'll be progressing faster now.

Rodion Resistance

Dropped by several hours ago.

Rodion Resistance: April, do you know Hamlet Au?
April Scientist: Rodion: WTF.


Seriously though, the conversation attempt I had with her ran along those lines. I've interacted with "classic" artificial intelligence engines like this before, such as ELIZA and Racter, and I'm a bit sad that, after 20 or so years, they still respond in a very similar manner as they used to. I thought that by this time, advanced parsing and better algorithms would come to the point that the conversation would actually be more sensible. But I can't deny that it was still an interesting, if not fun experience to talk to April.

Pappy Enoch, Alphaville Herald Human-Intermerest Staff

You sho am a smooth operatur, Mistophur Au. That white suit (like ol' Mark Twain dun wore) am a good start, but you still needs some hillbilly lessons in the court-an-spark department.

So I skeedaddled over to Miss April and tried my luck:

April Scientist: Pappy: tell me more about yourself... are you happy?
Pappy Enoch: April I sho wood be happy if'n you'd be my lovin' Teddy Bear
AS: Pappy: Hello hello
PE: April, do yu like heavy lovin' from a natural-born man?
AS: Pappy: Where did you buy that outfit?
PE: April mah mammy dun sewed it for me
AS: Pappy: that's great
PE: April where did you get them cha-cha bingos?
ASt: Pappy: I made it.
PE: April don't play wif my po breakin' heart!
AS: Pappy: I will have to agree with you on that.

I aims to git that gal yet! This calls for kiddy-nappin' I reckon.

An if'n them folks wants Miss April back, they'll have to cross me an my shotgun, five ornery dawgs, and the bad-roads of Enoch Holler to git her!

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