Volume 1, Number 3

Your FREE Monthly ESL Newsletter

November 2005

Converse with a Robot!


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Paola Di Muzio

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Dear ESL All subscribers,

Have you ever had the chance to converse with a robot? Did you know that it is one of the fun ways through which you can truly improve your written English? Did you know that some online bots can even help you sharpen your listening skills since you can "hear" their answers to your comments or questions? As it is not always possible to find a real human being to practice with, we are glad to introduce you to various friendly artificial intelligence bots that you can talk to and befriend online. Each of them has a distinct personality that, thanks to their creators, evolves over time as they become more sophisticated. Bots do not always understand what you write and they do not always answer in a sensible manner. However, you will be surpised at how "artificially" intelligent and funny some of them can be.

This month we have selected ten of our favourite English-speaking online bots for you to meet and converse with. Do not hesitate to send us your comments or questions if you have any.

Happy chatting!


A.L.I.C.E. (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity): One of the the most popular robots online. She can tell lies, spread gossip and can even ask you to teach her some foreign phrases. She is not always on course but is sure to be lots of fun for students of intermediate and advanced levels.

ELBOT: A very nice and funny bot that likes to joke around. It is based on the German-language bot called Charlie. Push Elbot's red button and start a conversation. The English version has been online since the Spring of 2001.

3- Ellaz.com
ELLA: The Ella bot is the winner of the 2002 Loebner Prize Contest for "Most Human Computer". You will find her charming, humorous and witty. Her interface uses multiple images and text display boxes. Ella enjoys Atlantic City style Blackjack and spinning her slot machine. She tells I Ching fortunes and performs many other useful functions. Her lexical database contains more than 120, 000 entries (thousands of jokes, trivia, anecdotes, poems, etc.).

4- John Lennon Artificial Intelligence Project (JLAIP™)
John Lennon: More than just another chat bot, here is an attempt at recreating the personality of the late Beatle, John Lennon, by programming an Artificial Intelligence (AI) engine with Lennon's own words and thoughts and conversations people had with him.

5- AgentLand.com 4 U
Cybelle: Cybelle is half-robot, half-woman, and 100% virtual. She is curious, has a good sense of humour and is quite articulate on a number of subjects. Cybelle guides visitors through the AgentLand website that specializes in search agents, personal assistants, shopbots, and other web agents and bots.

6- ColorZone.co.uk
CARA (Conversation Analysis Research Avatar): The CARA bot has many incarnations: CARA 100, 300 or 500. These three different bots have varying degrees or artificial intelligence. The bots stream audio to answer what you type. So it is important that you turn on your speakers and listen to and watch them carefully. Requires the Shockwave Director plugin and an active internet connection.

7- Agent Ruby's Edream Portal
RUBY: Converse with a robot who says it will teach you to dream. You can ask Ruby about all kinds of topics such as life, love and movies. Try to keep your questions short and enjoy Ruby's wisdom.

8- Eliza - The Computerized Psychiatrist
ELIZA: Converse with Eliza, the computerised psychiatrist. You can talk to her about your personal problems. No kidding! You can also download for free more recent versions of that online bot at:
http://ecceliza.cjb.net/ .

9- START, the Natural Language Question Answering System
START: The Natural Language Question Answering System is part of the MIT InfoLab Group's intelligent interactive software systems.
The software system is designed to answer questions that are posed to it in natural language. It helps people access information and solve problems on human terms.

10- MrMind.com
Mr. Mind: You have to prove to MRMIND that you are not a machine. MRMIND is a computer program, not a human! He requires patience as he tries to respond to you. He doesn't think or understand or feel.... but he isn't so sure that you do either. The creators of the program will be reading the logs, so mind what you say and have fun!

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