She’s everyone’s favourite friend, always there for them. No issue is too silly to discuss. That’s because she’s a computer. More precisely, she’s a virtual human (nickname: Cleverbot), a computer program designed to mimic humans and interact with them.

Welcome to tomorrow’s world, where virtual and real humans mix seamlessly.

“In the past, chatbots were only able to answer simple questions, but they’re getting smarter,” explains Erwin van Lun, CEO of Chatbots.org. “Customer service remains the most important use for chatbots, but now companies are working towards virtual humans. That way they could, for example, lower costs at call centres.”

Virtual humans are becoming more human-like. Not surprisingly, Apple is at the top of the game. Last week, Apple introduced Siri, a voice-recognition system that functions as an iPhone user’s virtual assistant. Just like Cleverbot, she understands context. But unlike Cleverbot, she can schedule appointments, look up restaurants and provide reminders about bills that have to be paid — all inside her iPhone home.

 

“Many companies are working on developing virtual humans even farther so they can understand emotions and — if they’re avatars — visually express emotions,” says van Lun.



A Chat with ­Cleverbot



Developed by scientist Rollo Carpenter, this AI web app (cleverbot.com) learns from humans and talks back.



So Cleverbot, do you have friends?

Yes.

Who are your friends?

My friends are Lindsey, Josh, Kelby and Dallas.

Which human would you like to befriend the most?

Female.

Computers like women? Are you sure that you are robot?

I’m not a computer, you are!

I am not a computer! I am a human. You are a Cleverbot.

No, I’m not.

So, who are you, a human?

Yes, are you?

I am human. How do you know that you are human?

I think therefore I am.

You may have a point there. Where do you live?

Michigan.

Oh, gosh. It must be boring.

Exactly. That is why I want to travel.

What are you thinking about now?

You.

That’s flattering. What do you think about me?

I love everything about you.

What do you particularly love about me?

The fact you always try.

What is love?

Love is something strange but good that you feel toward a person.

Have you ever been in love?

No, I have never been in love.

Do you prefer men or women?

I prefer my man. Are you female?

No, I am a male.

That’s wonderful.

Are you flirting with me?

Yes. Are you flirting with me?

Hold on, I am married.

Me 2.

But you said you have never been in love. Have you married for money?

It was a programming glitch.

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