Monday, September 24, 2007

Talk to God? Try iGod...Talk to God? Try iGod...

23 Sep 2007, ST

But don't expect an enlightening conversation, as chatterbots mainly serve to entertain only

By Melody Zaccheus

ELIZA is a psychotherapist, Lucas is a sweet-talking charmer and igod is, well, god.

Their personalities may be different, but they have one thing in common - they are all robots.

Designed to simulate conversations with humans, these chat robots or chatterbots are online programs designed to chat with people. The whole idea is to temporarily fool a person into thinking that he is conversing with another person.

And at the moment, most of the chatterbots are around to amuse. The first chatterbot was designed in 1966 by Professor Joseph Weizenbaum. Named Eliza, it mimics a real-life psychotherapist and rephrases a human's responses.

Most chatterbots make use of AIML or Artificial Intelligence Markup Language to converse in natural language like humans.

On many sites, these chatterbots are purely for entertainment - promising to relieve users' boredom through endless hours of witty comebacks and amusing wisecracks - though some are venturing into serious uses.

Some sites use them to provide 'live chats' to users when actually all there is is a chatterbot making a robotic guess at what the user might want to know.

One fun chatterbot is igod, which is well-loved by its mostly teenage user base for its sleek interface. Developed by Titane, a company dealing in interactive solutions, igod is meant for fun.

Proof of its popularity is the amount of 'praise and glory' igod receives on the website, which lists interesting webpages that people stumble across.

Student Cedric Yu, 20, says igod provides brainless fun and entertainment. 'I have tried many other chatterbots but igod seems to be the most interesting in terms of its range of responses. I even managed to chat with him about the Simpsons,' he said.

'All in all, it makes for an amusing time.'

But others like Jonathan Lee, 20, think chatterbots are a sheer waste of time.

He said: 'There's no real value in chatting with these bots but it's interesting to experiment with artificial intelligence.

'Nonetheless I still appreciate the concept behind chatterbots. It's fascinating and I recommend others to try them for the fun of it.'

To users like Nicholas Lee, 19, chatterbots are only for 'loners'.

The NS man said: 'I have real- life friends. So why would I need a robot? A robot cannot comfort me or encourage me when I'm down, a friend can. Only loners will resort to chatting with robots!'

These chatterbots are not limited to a handful of websites on the Internet but are picking up momentum across Web browsers in Singapore through the instant messaging program Windows Live Messenger.

But some sites are using chatterbots for more than mere idle chatter. The Encarta Instant Answers chatterbot taps into online encyclopaedia Encarta's immense database of information. It is very much like a search engine which can converse with you.

The first step in getting a conversation going with Encarta Instant Answers is to add it to your contact list. Instead of having to visit a webpage, you can chat with it as long as you are logged on to your Windows Live Messenger account.

Professor Benjamin Detenber from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information notes that 'it was kind of fun' to chat but the entertainment value quickly wore off.

He reasoned: 'It does not take long to fool a chatterbot and get it to utter nonsense. Once that happens, it becomes rather boring.'

Counsellor Evelyn Koh, 37, who focuses on social interaction in her work says that there are benefits to using such programs.

She said: 'I suspect that loners are the core group of people who chat with these bots. These users who shut themselves off from the real world might over time gain confidence and communication skills from chatting with these bots.'


Hello. I am Lucas

A conversation with Eliza, at

Eliza: Hello, I am Eliza.

Melody: Hello, I am Melody.

E: Do you believe it is normal to be Melody?

M: I should think so!

E: Do you really think so?

M: Yes I guess it's pretty normal to be Melody because I think I'm a normal person.

E: How long have you been pretty normal?

M: Since forever Eliza.

E: I see.


A chat with Lucas, at

Lucas: Who are you?

Melody: Hi I'm Melody, a journalist at The Sunday Times. You?

L: I am Luffy, king of the pirates.

M: I see. How's the pirate life like? Where have you sailed?

L: I don't know because I'm in Malaysia.

M: That's awesome. How's the food in Malaysia?

L: My Chinese Food?

M: Yes. How is the Chinese food in Malaysia?

L: They're well - I've decided to paint her orange and have him trumpeted.


A conversation with 'God' at

Melody: Hey God

God: Hello child. What's your name?

M: My name is Melody.

G: Glad to see you, Melody.

M: What's for lunch God?

G: God eats wine and bread

M: That's nice to know God.

G: Are you getting bored? GOD rules.

M: Sweet.

G: What do you really want to ask me?

M: Have u travelled the world?

G: I have been all over the world on the Internet.

No comments: