Pandorabots and Dr. Richard Wallace

With a lot of recent delving into the applications of AI, I had the good fortune to speak with the man behind, Doctor Richard Wallace.

Dr. Wallace began work on artificial personalities in the 80’s when a wave of “minimalism” in robotics got him thinking about applying this same kind of perspective on language. He went on to create the software language AIML, which he used to create ALICE, a super chatbot which won the Loebner Prize an impressive three times.

(The Loebner Prize is a real contest of the famous “Turing Test,” the test to determine if a machine can in fact fool a human into believing that they are interacting with another human – rather than a computer program.)

When “chatterbots” (or “chatbots,” as they’re often called) first arrived in the 60’s with the advent of “Eliza,” it was considered by many to be a kind of research dead end. Dr. Wallance didn’t think so, and through Pandorabots, he has leveraged the ability of chatterbots all around the world to serve businesses and organizations. Proof of this is seen in the over 1,600,000,000 responses that Pandorabots have generated.

Building on past successes and furthering the field, Dr. Wallace will be hosting “Chatterbots 3.3” in Philadelphia, PA on March 23rd.

The Future of ChatBot Technology

Though the applications for this kind of technology are certainly vast, Dr. Wallace isn’t much concerned about chatbots aiding in some “Singularity” transition. In his view, the real goal of his developments, and of this kind of artificial intelligence in general – is the “dream” of the Star Trek computer.

That’s right – you talk and it understands – and performs. Highly intuitive, capable, and responsive, with regular “human-like” interaction.

When I asked Doctor Wallace what kind of tasks might still require “typing” or other, faster gestures than speech he responded that some complex tasks such as coding would likely always require a faster mode of entry – but that the ideal computer would be able to create your code project simply by instructing it to do so.

Moving Forward

Dr. Wallace has AIML 2.0 as one of his next projects, as well as a new virtual assistant app which hosts chatterbot input and responses entirely on a device, rather than going through a server – thus allowing confidential information to be transmitted from individual to device with minimal chances of leaked information (such as financial information).

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I’d like to thanks Dr. Richard Wallace for taking the time to catch up about the history and future of chatbot technology – I’m certainly excited to see how close we’ll come to the Turing Test in the coming 10 years!

-Daniel Faggella

PS: Learn more about ALICE here.