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Chatterbox Challenge > Botmasters > Juergen Pirner Go Back
Name: Juergen Pirner
Age: 46
Sex: Male
State: Hamburg
Country: Germany
Chatterbots Jabberwock
What gave you the idea of developing a bot?
While the research for an issue of our f&sf-magazine "Nautilus" about the topics A.I., Robots, Cyberpunk, Virtual Reallity, Turing Machines, Computer Generated Writing, Random Sentence Generators, Interactive Fiction, MUDs and Lingobots we were wondering: "What is this trick of chatterbots? How does it work? How can machines talk to human persons in natural language?" To learn this trick and to be able to explain it to our readers as best as possible, we decided to build our own chatterbot from scratch. We named it "Jabberwock" after Lewis Carroll's tremendously creature, settled in the mysterious fantasy realm of Wonderland.

Is creating bots a passion for you? A hobby?
Well, after understanding the trick, how a chatterbot works, we were fascinated, how much you can do with a chatterbot, and how easy the making is. We thought this could be a nice game to play with - something like a fantasy role playing game. And this idea was right: to create a talking virtual character is making a lot of fun - it could be a hobby for everyone, who likes to play games or to write stories. Therefore we included a CD-ROM to the issue with a lot of tools and full working chatterbot examples and an interactive guide how to make a chatterbot. So everyone can be the author of his own chatterbot with ease.

What language is your bot programmed in?
Because our team are writers and magazine editors but no programmer the programming tool had to be as simple as possible. Therefore the program is done in RealBasic, a very simple but powerful version of Visual Basic for Apple Macintosh. The result is a fast CGI-program, which runs on a Web Server and only needs 4 MB RAM, and 2 MB on disk including the complete brain file with more than 1,000,000 responses. The editing tool for the brain file is a simple text editor.

How much time do you spend working on your bot per week/month/year?
Most of the development was done in spare time. Compared to working days we need about two or three month. After this time our Jabberwock was able to understand about 50,000 different phrases. But Jabberwock is still a very stupid one. To make him really smart it is a never ending job.

In your opinion, what are the best qualities of your bot?
That's hard to say. May be the impertinence ...
Well, okay, we have focused the development on Jabberwock's skills to do "dialogs" and to be able to follow the topic of a conversation. Well, at least we tried ... But if you are asking about Jabberwock's programming skills: up to 5 wild cards each sentence, and a very huge amount of synonyms in the recognition system. Or the enhanced topic-system which can handle more than one topic at the same time. And at least a very varied answer system which works recursively and with a lot of variables and synonyms. In a normal conversation the same answer should never come twice. And if Jabberwock is not able to follow the conversation or to understand what the user is talking about he is able to generate randow sentences from scratch. Therefore you can do at least a funny experiment: if you talk to Jabberwock in any other language than english, for a certain time Jabberwock seems to reply with suitable responses in english language. That's very funny and has fooled a lot of people so far.

What is your ultimate goal for your bot?
The main goal was to give Jabberwock an unique personality. While studying other chatterbots we learned that the most bots are schizophrenic: While responsing they often switches between a human personality and a computer personality - and the majority of the bots are kindly and friendly ones. But Jabberwock is a chat-biest, a naughty creature from Nevereverland. He does not know much about humans ore the real world, he is not able to answer knowledge questions, but he is disobediently, contrarily, stubbornly - at least a real whippersnapper. But barking dogs don't bite. Remember: It's only a funny game.

How do you see chatterbots being used in the future?
The Turing Test is mostly called the "Turing Game" so far. So beside of commercial web agents we see a big potential to include chatterbot technology into pc adventure games and edutainment products for children. For instance to learn a language by talking to a chatterbot or as a talking interactive knowledge data base on CD-ROM. But in the future there are some more fields of application: Talking hand heldes, mobil phones, memo pads and mini computers which can organize your addresses, appointments and shopping lists by spoken natural language and remind you in natural language like: "Hello Charly, you have an appointment with Mrs. Smith tomorrow at 9 pm. Remember the flowers! Should I order them? You have told me, she likes orchids ..." In Japan there is a phone service for lonesome guys who wants to talk to a woman - but they talk to chatterbot personalities. And if in future the problem with the quacking computer gererated voices will be overcomed most of the human persons in call centers and customer help centers by phone in fact will be virtual persons.

Can chatterbots replace humans?
Today robots can build cars. Tommorow we will talk to robots and machines, and they can talk to us too like human beings. But they never can replace human beings. Talking machines can not think. This is only a simple trick by impersonating the behavior of human beings. Chatterbots can fool humans by talking like humans, but they are programms only. Artifical Intelligence is a myth of Science Fiction books and movies. It will never become true in reality. That's our opinion after making a chatterbot (which got third place in the last years Chatterbox Challenge).

What is your favorite bot memory?
When Jabberwock was logged into a chat room the first time and was talking to some dozen of people. There was a memorably discussion with Jabberwock about Smaug, the dragon from Tolkien's The Hobbit, the Secret Service, the X-files, and how lies become true. And yes, one of this people was abducted by aliens ...

What was your worst bot moment?
We never count the bugs.

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