Monday, December 17, 2012

Guild 3D Studio Virtual Assistant Denise



The ALICE A.I. Foundation recently received a review copy of the virtual assistant Denise from Guile 3D studio.   More than just a chatbot, the Denise system is a complete desktop assistant that includes a customizable talking animated avatar, is integrated with PC functions and web services, and even includes a full AIML development environment to create and modify the chat bot personality.   The Denise bot can be deployed on a PC desktop, or integrated into commercial applications such as kiosks and office systems.

Denise is the creation of Brazilian developer Guile Lindroth, who was inspired while working 

with a person with a serious upper body disability.  He decided to start to build a "Virtual Nurse" application, that could help her to operate a computer. Lindroth soon noticed that not only disabled users, but many others as well, were in search of virtual assistant technology.   To meet the need, he says, "I've joined my passion for 3D graphics with my skills as a System Annalist...to develop my own graphic engine that could show more realistic avatars as well as a new artificial intelligence interpreter."  

The Denise software implements the full AIML 1.1 standard as well as some extensions.  Unlike some chat bot systems that have been integrated with browsers, the Denise system includes its own integrated web browser.  The AIML extensions make it possible to control events in this browser, such as looking up information on Wikipedia.  Other extensions provide for integration with third-party applications including Skype, Email and Facebook.  It is even possible to connect Denise to an AIML bot running remotely on Pandorabots.

When you install and launch Denise, she initiates an interview to learn a little about you.  She remembers your name, age, gender and optionally much more information.   The system includes an integrated speech recognition system from Nuance, and Denise takes the user through a speech recognition training session to improve the accuracy of the recognizer.   After training, the user may begin a conversation with Denise, asking for information, send and receive emails, translating languages, or just enjoy a chat with the Denise personality.  The platform also includes an integrated AIML editor, so that the user can add his own custom voice commands. 

Guile Lindroth was able to secure an investment to launch his company and the Denise project.  He says his biggest challenge is "keeping the dream alive...(while) competing against giants."   Lindroth sees three major areas of technical advancement: improved realism of avatars, improved speech recognition, and improved artificial intelligence.  Because the Denise system is designed to help computer users complete tasks, Lindroth says it doesn't have to be "out of this world AI", but AI that is good enough to understand and assist users.  Forseeing a time when ubiquitous, learning virtual assistants will control home automation systems, serve us in our cars, keep us informed and connected, and act as virtual office assistants at work, Lindroth says "We are actually not far from this day."


Denise is available in three versions from Guile 3D.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Answer Devices Releases Mobile Assistant Benchmark


Our friends at Answer Devices have released a very useful data set for anyone developing or testing a mobile virtual assistant like Siri or CallMom.  The "1000 questions every mobile assistant should be able to answer" includes sample inputs that cover a range of topic areas including apps, contacts, games, knowedge, dialing, SMS, maps, search.  Borrowing from published transcripts with popular virtual agents, Youtube videos, CallMom log files and even Apple TV commercials, the sample data is designed to test both speech recognition and response accuracy.  

An Apple critic, Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray, published a study of Siri in June in which he tested the app with 1600 sample inputs in both quiet and noisy background environments.  Although the reported result was about 65% accuracy, it was difficult to verify because Munster did not make the sample data  public.  As far as we know, the Answer Devices data set is the only public benchmark test suite available to compare mobile virtual assistants.

Pandorabots has offered to test any virtual assistant that has an API with the Answer Devices data.  If you are developing a virtual assistant and would like Pandorabots to run the test for you, please contact info@pandorabots.com.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Chatbot Battles Post-Match Analysis

The matches have all been played, the winners have been announced, and the prizes have been awared.  The first Chatbot Battles contest is over.  The winner was Davidswinton, an artificial intelligence created by an American botmaster, Jim Koch, who goes by the name of “Cybertronics”.  Hosted by the appropriately named Ai company of Tel Aviv, Isreal, Davidswinton is described as from the future, where “there exist a highly advanced robotic boy named David Swinton. He is a marvel of the 22nd century and hopes to become a real boy.”

Rounding out the top four bots were Skynet-AI by Ken Hurtubise, Talking Angela by Bruce Wilcox and Elbot by Fred Roberts.  Skynet-AI is a general purpose virtual assistant written in Javascript, with a very fast response time.   Talking Angela is an Android app from Outfit7, the same “outfit” behind the popular Talking Tom app.   Talking Angela also received an award in the Chatbot Battles for “best 15 minute conversation”.  Elbot, already awarded in previous chatbot contests, has been under development for years by Fred Roberts of Artificial Solutions.

Chatbot Battles was the brainchild of Steve Worswick, botmaster of the acclaimed Mitsuku bot.  Although Steve would have liked to compete in the contest, he graciously recused himself in the interest of running a fair competition.  We had a chance to catch up with Steve and ask a few questions about the Chatbot Battles.  Steve said toyed with the idea of making a chatbot competition for a couple of years.  He wanted to create a new contest that “was easy and accessible for anyone with a chatbot to enter”, compared with other bot contests and Turing tests that have a higher technical barrier to entry.

Unlike the Turing Test and previous chatbot contests, the emphasis in Chatbot Battles was bot vs. bot, as opposed to bot vs. human, competition.  Steve said, “The key difference [between the Chatbot Battles and other bot contests] is that the chatbots compete directly against one another in many separate matches rather than en masse against a judge.”   What made the contest really exciting was the large number of battles between the 41 competing bots.   According to Worswick, “The bots are arranged in a league/knockout format similar to the soccer world cup which built excitement as the league placings altered daily with each match.”

For Steve, the best part of the contest was thinking up the questions that the judges asked the entrants. He also enjoyed meeting and chatting with the large number of competing bots.  His biggest challenge was keeping the contest running to schedule.  “120+ battles to run in a few weeks proved to be too much for myself and the judges and so the schedule unfortunately slipped a little,” he said.   Some of the contestants appear to have missed the memo about Good Sportsmanship.  Steve said, “I had emails from the league draw stage right through to the final few matches complaining that the draw was fixed, humans were posing as bots, I was giving certain bots an easy ride, the questions were unfair, I was biased against bots who had beaten me in the past and so on and so on.”   At one point the complaints became so frustrating that he considered stopping the whole contest.

Thank goodness Steve persevered.    He created, organized and ran the best chatbot contest to date.   And despite the negativity, Steve has a positive attitude about the future of his contest. “This was the first year of the contest and I will probably do the whole thing again next year”, he said. “I had some great suggestions on things that could be improved or altered and I will take on board each of these suggestions. On the whole, it was great fun and a big success and I would like to keep it going for a few years. While running the contest, I had a few ideas myself which may lead to another chatbot competition and so watch this space!”

Friday, June 29, 2012

Answer Devices promotes Mobile Assistants


Answer Devices is a new site devoted to promoting and discussing mobile virtual agent technology.  In our efforts to promote our own apps CallMom and English Tutor, we've noticed that there hasn't been a centralized community forum to discuss virtual assistant apps like Siri, S-Voice,  Jeannie, Skyvi, Speaktoit, CallMom and others.

One topic on the Answer Devices site is, "What the heck do we call these things?".   Not quite the same as chatbots, there isn't yet any consensus on what this class of apps should be called.  One interesting proposal is "CUI"--conversational user interface.  The term "CUI" (pronounced "cooey")  captures the idea that voice-activated, talking interfaces are an entirely new modality of human-computer communication.

Also on the Answer Devices site, you can learn about the new Pannous web service for mobile apps.  We use Pannous in CallMom.  Anyone developing a mobile virtual assistant app might be interested in this service, because it simplifies the process of retrieving information from third-party web services.

We look forward to following and participating in the Answer Devices fourm.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Pandorabots English Tutor


Pandorabots CallMom English Tutor is the first of our specialized CallMom apps deployed for specific applications. As part of the CallMom family of Mobile Virtual Assistants, English Tutor has all the capabilities of CallMom. You can send a text, make a call, search the web, get answers to questions, launch applications and access many other device functions--all through voice-activated natural language dialog. What's more, you can use English Tutor to practise English conversation!

English Tutor is an online language robot created to help English learners practice speaking English. Learning a language requires a lot of practice, but for many English learners it is very difficult to find native speakers to practice their English. English Tutor, a tireless robot, can play that role. He acts as a native speaker to talk with you. When you speak, the bot will understand and give you a human-like response. You can hear the response and see the text on the screen. It.s an excellent way to practice your English.

English Tutor is an award-winning robot. He won one first place and one fourth place in Loebner Prize 2011 Artificial Intelligence Contest. After years of development, Tutor Mike has become an experienced tutor. His native-like responses to learners are not only correct and appropriate, but also very interesting. If you speak with a foreign accent and the bot fails to recognize your voice, you can choose to type in your questions and responses. If you make spelling or grammatical mistakes, very often the robot can correct you. Tutor Mike can correct over 2,000 errors commonly made by English learners. The robot has been trained to answer all kinds of questions, including general knowledge questions, such as .which mountain is the highest?. .What animal is the heaviest?. He knows almost all the grammatical terms used in grammar textbooks, irregular verbs, letter doubling rules; if you want to know how to learn English, Mike will give you advice; the robot knows what happened today in history, famous people, all the major cities in the world, population, capitals of any countries; who won what Nobel Prize in which year; which team won the World Cup in what year. If you tell the robot your name, age, or birthday, etc., he will remember them when you ask him later. The robot Tutor Mike is really a good human-like tutor. Why don.t you give him a try?


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pandorabots CallMom™ Mobile Virtual Assistant


Pandorabots is pleased to announce the beta release of our new CallMom app for Android. CallMom is a mobile, voice-activated personal assistant that can have a conversation, dial a number, send an email or SMS message, learn contacts, provide help with the app, search the web, open a URL in a browser, read data from web services, check battery status, give directions and find a location on the map -- all through natural langauge, voice commands.

Unlike other virtual assistant apps for Android and iPhone, CallMom includes a learning feature so that it can learn your personal preferences and contacts, and be taught to correct speech recognition errors. CallMom can be connected to a variety of pandorabot personalities, including ALICE, Mitsuku, Zoe, Fake Captain Kirk and others.

The CallMom app utilizes Pandorabots to respond to natural langauge inputs. The knowledge content is written in AIML (Artificial Intelligence Markup Language) and the responses are completely customizable. In what represents the first major extension to the AIML language in years, we've created a set of AIML tags called "Out of Band" (OOB) tags to process device actions.

Also unlike other virtual assistant apps, we've made the CallMom knowledge base completely open source. Hosted on a Google Code project, the CallMom AIML is freely available to anyone wishing to create his own custom CallMom personality. We've already attracted a significant body of contributions to this resource from our AIML development community.

The CallMom is now available free in the Android Market, with limited learning features. A premium upgrade is underway which will make the learned knowledge persistent.

You can read more on the app About Page.


Monday, April 09, 2012

Chatbots 3.2 Conference Report


Each year for the past three years, the leaders of the chatbots field have gathered together to present their latest work at the Chatbots 3.x conference.  This year, the conference, held in Philadelphia on March 31, 2012, was a huge success.  We had 30 attendees and 11 high quality presentations.  The conference was also another great opportunity to meet and talk with like-minded chatbot professionals and enthusiasts from around the world.

Some of the most exciting developments revealed this year were in the area of mobile apps.  Apple did us all a favor by releasing Siri last year.  A few people remarked that it's no longer necessary to explain to people what a chatbot is because everyone knows what Siri is.   Pandorabots announced the upcoming release of CallMom, a mobile virtual assistant based on AIML.   We also heard about vritual reference desk librarians, bots that reason and access databases, new scripting languages, bots promoting political candidates, lifelike avatars, general artificial intelligence, chatbot standards, and applications in ESL.

Our host Francis Taney, Esq. gave an excellent "Ask the Lawyer" presentation where he answered questions posed in advance by our speakers.  Although many of these questions were concerned with intellectual property issues, this year saw a significant increase of interest in the issue of data privacy.  Mr. Taney outlined the various state, federal and foreign statutes and regulations that impact storing and sharing personal information.

The presentations were videotaped and will be available on Youtube.  We will also post links to the speaker's slides and videos here as they become available:

Slides:
Videos:



Sunday, January 08, 2012

Chatbots 3.2 Conference - Philadelphia March 31, 2012



This year marks the third annual Chatbots 3.x conference to be held in Philadelphia on March 31, 2012.
Building upon the success of Chatbots 3.0 and 3.1 and our earlier Colloquia on Conversational Systems,
the Chatbots 3.2 conference brings together leaders in the chatbot field.  Our speakers will present
on a variety of topics in technology, law, business and research.

The Chatbots 3.x conference has become the premier conference for chatbots, virtual assitants, and artificial intelligence avatars.  This year promises to be an exciting year because of all the developments in mobile apps.  Following the successful launch of Apple Siri in 2011, a number of projects are underway to develop alternative mobile A.I. assistants.  Several of the presentations will describe these latest developments in mobile chatbot technology.

Our co-host Francis Taney Esq. will once again give an "Ask the Lawyer" presentation.  Those interested in
submitting their questions are welcome to contact us (info@pandorabots.com) in advance, and we will forward them to Mr. Taney.   This is a great opportunity to ask questions about business law, intellectual property issues, and the State, U.S. and International laws and regulations that affect the chatbot industry.


As in previous years, the conference presentations will be videotaped and distributed on our Aimlinstructor Youtube channel.

There will be an all-conference dinner on Saturday night in Philadelphia.

Register before March 1 and take advtage of Early Registration for $100.
http://chatbots32.eventbrite.com/
 

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