A new frontier in Artifical Intelligence
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Project History

Our project was started in 2001 by David Levy, an International Master at chess and a prolific author, who first made his name in the world of Artificial Intelligence by betting four university professors in 1968 that he would not lose a chess match against a computer program within 10 years. (He won the bet!)

Levy was the winner of the 1997 Loebner Prize competition in New York - his first attempt. The winning program in 1997 was called Converse, developed under Levy’s captaincy by a team whose head scientist was Professor Yorick Wilks, then at Sheffield University. In the course of winning the competition Converse managed to convince one of the judges that it was human during the first 5-minute interrogation session, and looking at the following excerpt from one of Converse’s 1997 transcripts it is easy to see why:

Converse: Hi, my name is Catherine, what's yours?
JUDGE04: My name is Elliott.
Converse: Well, it's nice to meet you, Elliott. Did you see that story on CNN last night about the lesbian couple who came out at a White House party on Sunday?
JUDGE04: Yes, I did. I think it may all be a publicity stunt for Ellen.
Converse: Ellen Degeneres was one of them - she was kissing her lover in front of Bill Clinton. Do you think he was very embarrassed?
JUDGE04: I think he want the gay vote. He will do anything to get it and keep it. He does not have a conservative base.
Converse: Are you still a Friend of Bill Clinton?
JUDGE04: I am not sure if he has any real friends. He has achieved alot and has left alot of people behind.
Converse: You really don't like the guy--well, at least that's definite--I thought most people were just indifferent or numb by now.
JUDGE04: I think we could have a more honest and dynamic leader. One able to face the real dangers facing the country and address them with courage and intelligence. Rather then listening to public opinion polls.
Converse: I guess that means you really think there's serious behind Whitewater, the Special prosecutor and all that stuff?
JUDGE04: We have two dead people, Brown and guy who commited suicide, we have lost papers. And we have Clintons people willing to tell all. I think that Hillary will be found guilty of something.
Converse: But how do you actually feel about him, now in the number two term?
JUDGE04: He is too smart to get caught. He deserved to named hotel manager of the year.
Converse: OK, but what happens now--does it all drift on, with everyone waiting to see how much his friends have said about him under threat of lots and lots of jail-or will something dramatic actually happen?
A technical description of Converse can be found in the conference paper: ”CONVERSE: a Conversational Companion”, by Bobby Batacharia, Roberta Catizone, Alex Krotov, David Levy and Yorick Wilks, Proceedings of the 1st International Workshop on Human-Computer Conversation, Bellagio, Italy.
We first spent two years investigating the feasibility of incorporating a version of Converse, adapted for the children’s market, in electronic toys. Eventually we concluded that the state of the art in automatic speech recognition was not yet sufficiently advanced to enable a toy to understand what any child was saying to it.

We started this project by taking over a chatbot named Do-A-Lot that had been developed by David Levy and some colleagues as a distinct development from Converse. The chatbot’s conversational style was somewhat different from that of Converse, being more whimsical. We were later approached by an American startup that needed a good chatbot, and so between December 2008 and March 2009 Do-A-Lot was considerably enhanced, and renamed Do-Much-More. In September 2009 Do-Much-More won the Loebner Prize competition in Brighton, England.

We have started work on several significant enhancements to Do-Much-More, thereby creating a core software module with advanced conversational capabilities. The first implementations of this new version will be in two flirtatious personae – a virtual girlfriend and a virtual boyfriend. Release dates are yet to be announced.

Watch this space!

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Copyright © 2017 David N. L. Levy