This year’s winner of the Loebner prize for the most convincing chatbot – software that mimics a human conversing – was created by Bruce Wilcox of Telltale Games in San Rafael, California.
If you’re not familiar, the competition employs a version of the test proposed by Alan Turing to determine whether a computer program acts as if it is “thinking.” In the Turing test, a human interacts with both the program and another human, neither of which they can see or hear directly, and then has to say which is which. In the competition, judges chat online with a chatbot and a human simultaneously for 25 minutes at a time.
In the qualifying round, the judge poses questions covering categories to do with time (for example, “What time is it?”); things (“What’s a hammer for?”); relationships (Which is larger, a grape or a grapefruit?”); and memory (“What’s the name of the person we were talking about?”). In the final round, judges can ask about anything. This year’s winner, a chatbot named Suzette, successfully fooled one judge into thinking it was human. Chatbots in previous contents have fooled more than one judge, but the conversation lasted just 5 minutes.
According to MacGregor Campbell, who reported the victory in New Scientist, Suzette is programmed to steer the discussion towards subjects that it knows about. “Suzette has been targeted to ‘be human’ and not to accept being a chatbot,” Wilcox says. This year’s competition “has been one of the best so far in terms of the bots’ complexity and engineering,” says Robby Garner, an independent natural language processing research, whose chatbot Albert won the contest in 1988 and 1999. But he points out that a deceived judge is not necessarily a sign of a smart chatbot. The judges’ human interlocutors may try to spice things up by imitating a chatbot, and Suzette was paired with just such a “robotic” human in the final round.
Wilcox won $3000 for his efforts – or should we say that Suzette won Wilcox $3000 for its, er, her efforts?
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