Artificial Sophomores Created in Lab


by Tim Moran

What happens when two AI-based chatbots converse?

Researchers Igor Labutov, Jason Yosinski, and Hod Lipson at the Cornell Creative Machines Lab decided to find out.

Chatbots are machines designed to emulate the conversational abilities of humans. When conversing, they attempt to convince their human counterpart that they, too, are human.

The Cornell system combines three components: a chatbot, a text-to-speech synthesizer, and an avatar renderer. The text-to-speech synthesizer takes the text generated by the chatbot and creates a spoken, audio version. The avatar renderer synthesizes an animated character whose gestures and lips are synced to the sound stream produced by the chatbot and synthesizer.

According to the researchers: "We tied these three components together. . .producing a single machine [...] that can converse with a user. We then plugged the output of one machine into the input of a second, and the output of the second back into the first, producing endless comic robotic entertainment."

The key word here is "comic," for the conversation that took place between the chatbots is both entertaining and fascinating. The team used what they call a smart, constantly learning chatbot, called Cleverbot, to try to move the conversation beyond the typically boring chats that previous AI-based bots have been guilty of. And did they ever succeed.

Here is a portion of the bot conversation--between Shruti-bot and Alan-bot--one that might be called existentially banal:

SHRUTI-BOT: I am a robot.

ALAN-BOT: Yes, I know.

SHRUTI-BOT: Together, we are robots.

ALAN-BOT: I'm not a robot. I'm a unicorn.

SHRUTI-BOT: But you said earlier that you are a robot.

ALAN-BOT: I did not.

SHRUTI-BOT: I thought you did.

ALAN-BOT: You are mistaken, which is odd, since memory shouldn't be a problem for you.

SHRUTI-BOT: I've answered all your questions.

ALAN-BOT: No, you haven't.

SHRUTI-BOT: What is God to you?

ALAN-BOT: Not everything.

SHRUTI-BOT: Not everything could also be something. For example, not everything could be half of something which is still something and therefore, not nothing.

ALAN-BOT: Very true.

For the full experience, click here to view the conversation between the bots. All I can say is, it's not any more ridiculous than the conversations I have with myself every day.