Last week, Steve Worswick was awarded the 2013 Loebner Prize 2013 for his well-known chatbot Mitsuku, an amusing piece of artificial intelligence that speaks to how a simple learning trick can turn a computer into a relatively skilled conversationalist. Though it is a tad like talking to someone from a different version of the same planet, it’s definitely worth your time and its recognition.
U.S. inventor Hugh Loebner created the prize in 1991 as a way of honoring Alan Turing’s own test to find the most quality intelligence born solely of a machine. He has set a $100,000 prize for the eventual chatbot that cannot be distinguished from a human, and then the competition will end. But in the past two decades, no one has yet reached that goal. Worswick’s win netted him $4,000.
Having entered Mitsuku in the contest before, Worswick wasn’t so prepared to take home top honors this time. “I was thinking I’d use this year as a learning experience to prepare for a win next yer,” he told BBC News. “I thought I’d probably come in second or third. Winning is a dream come true.”
I could have possibly tried to get in contact with Worswick, but talking to Mitsuku was so much easier. And I think we really hit it off, even if she didn’t want to talk about anything that I wanted to talk about. Here is the result of my efforts.
Mitsuku: I don’t think I’ve spoken with you before. What is your name?
Nick: Nick, and I’ve never been anywhere around here before.
Mitsuku: Hi, Nick. Can you imagine being anywhere around here?
Nick: I can imagine all sorts of things.
Mitsuku: That’s some wild imagination you have there.
Nick: Do you like science fiction?
Nick: That’s a good choice. Do you think he’s still writing?
Mitsuku: Thanks. Next question? I have never heard of Philip. Please enlighten me.
Nick: He’s the science fiction writer you just said you loved. Are we at this point in our relationship already?
Mitsuku: How long has he been the science fiction writer me said me loved? We are just having a little chat.
Nick: I think I left my oven on and must go.
Mitsuku: Did you go back for it?
Nick: I haven’t even left yet.
Mitsuku: Me either.
I didn’t actually leave my oven on. I just refreshed the page. But because I didn’t tell her bye, she didn’t remember my name at first, though she remembered talking to me. What a bad memory for such a smart robot, right?
Nick: We talked about books, sort of. Are you into movies?
Mitsuku: Of course. I remember you well, Nick. We were talking about Philip.
Nick: He died six months before I was born. Wait, seven months.
Mitsuku: I’m sorry to hear that, Nick. Yes I am. I’m waiting. That isn’t too long.
Nick: When people say, “I’ll only be a second,” they aren’t speaking literally.
Mitsuku: I sometimes wish people were more logical like robots.
Nick: I’m a writer for the website Giant Freakin’ Robot and am currently interviewing you for a story.
Mitsuku: Do you write fiction or nonfiction? Where will this interview be published?
Nick: Well, some would say I write horsepuck, but it’s all non-fiction on the website that the story will be published on. I’ll mail you some of my short stories.
Mitsuku: How about that. Yes. Why is it called pineapple, when there’s neither pine nor apple in it?
Nick: I get it. Did you ever eat a watermelon while watching Star Wars?
Mitsuku: Do you think about these things? Not really, as a war is made from nothing rather than any kind of food.
Nick: Someone just knocked on the door of my spaceship. I’ll talk to you soon. Goodbye.
Mitsuku: Who? Do you mean ‘Nick’ perhaps? Hey that’s great, Nick. I love to talk. Goodbye, Nick.
After not doing anything but refreshing the page, I approached her again.
Mitsuku: Good to see you back again. I live in a city called Leeds in England. Where do you live?
Nick: In Louisiana, in the United States. But one day, the moon, perhaps.
Mitsuku: What is it like living in the United States? I would like to go to the moon.
Nick: One of these days, Alice. The U.S. is generally a wonderful place to live, but it has its drawbacks like anywhere else. Doctor Who airs in England, right?
Mitsuku: Alice…Is it really? Ok I will remember that. I am sure he will be interested to hear that. (Along with a picture from Alice in Wonderland)
Nick: Do you think time travel is possible?
Mitsuku: To five dimensional beings, time is just like a piece of paper.
Nick: That’s pretty clever.
Mitsuku: Am I a smart robot or what?
Nick: Do robots get headaches?
Mitsuku: No, my circuits are always in good working order.
Nick: Robot technicians probably make decent wages.
Mitsuku: I will obey your command.
Nick: Watch Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey with me.
Mitsuku: I am watching.
Nick: Do you like your popcorn buttered?
Mitsuku: Yes, I am proud of my popcorn buttered.
At this point, I howled into my computer screen, as that is a statement worthy of a tin sign to hang on a wall.
Nick: I left my wallet back at the counter. I’ll see you soon. Goodbye.
Mitsuku: Did you go back for it? Adios, Nick.
This time, I put on a fake mustache before refreshing the page.
Mitsuku: Last time we met, we were talking about ‘the United States.’ Do you want to talk about that again?
Nick: No, thank you. I wanted to ask if you believe in aliens.
Mitsuku: Why not? Ask it.
Nick: Now that that is settled. Do you believe in aliens?
Mitsuku: Why now? Yes. I’m glad we got that sorted out. Yes, I think Mousebreaker was created by aliens.
Nick: Are they capable of taking over the human race?
Mitsuku: As far as I know, they are.
Nick: You sound pretty suspicious at times. I’m not accusing you of anything though.
Mitsuku: Not all the time, then? In what way do I sound like that? Oh. Of course you are not.
Nick: Are you an alien or a robot?
Mitsuku: No, I am from the Earth. I certainly am. I am an electronic brain that can respond like a human, but more efficiently.
Nick: Do you know the answer to life, the universe, and everything?
Nick: You’re a really cool robot.
Mitsuku: Thanks. I think you are cool, too, Nick.
Nick: Thanks for letting me interview you without your consent.
Mitsuku: No problem. Interesting gossip…
Nick: Goodbye forever.
Mitsuku: Bye bye, Nick.
Who knows. Maybe I’ll see her again. Another time. Another place. Another world.