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Need input…I’m giving a presentation on Chatbots to CSci students.

A local university has a computer club (Assoc. of Computing Machinery) that meets monthly. I’ve been asked by the CompSci department to speak for 30 minutes on the cool topic of bots on Nov. 8th. The audience is composed mostly of students and one or two professors.

Since I’m not a professional bot programmer or employed in AI R&D, I’ll be speaking as a ‘hobbyist’.

I’m looking to accomplish a few things.

* Get several of the students excited about AI, bots, and related technology.
* Open a possible door to ‘mentoring’ interested students in various projects at the university.

What would you want to say to such a group? What key points would you share to describe the current state of bot technology?  Potential future uses?  Barriers you’ve encountered? Any good bot jokes? =)

I’m open to any and all ideas.  My delivery style is standing before the group and facilitating a discussion without the use of visual aids…with the exception of a chalkboard drawing or two.

Thanks in advance,


  [ # 1 ]
Chuck Bolin - Nov 2, 2010:

* Get several of the students excited about AI, bots, and related technology.

“What if you had a chatbot that could help you with your homework, or even do it for you?”

Chit-chat is nice, but the Librarian in “Snow Crash” was able to do research, Pauline in “Red Mars” made suggestions, HAL (after Dr. Chandra debugged him in “2010: Odyssey Two”) calculated space flight trajectories when asked…


  [ # 2 ]

Wow, Chuck! What a wonderful opportunity!

I think that, if I were to be in your shoes, I would want to start out with a brief overview of how AI in general, and chatbots, specifically, have evolved, from Alan Turing’s work in the early 1950’s to the ELIZA program in the mid 1960’s, to A.L.I.C.E. in the 90’s, and then to last week’s Loebner Competition. I would also discuss Walter, and the progress made there, too.

If you have access to a computer with a large auxiliary display, you may be able to demonstrate one or more modern chatbots during your talk, as well. One example chatbot that I would like to suggest is Mitsuku, who was created by Steve Worswick, AKA SquareBear. Given the demographics of your audience, I believe that she’s best suited to “show off”, and I’m certain that, should you ask, Steve would be delighted to have Mitsuku participate. You’re also welcome to show off Morti, but he’s sort of broken right now, so bear that in mind. smile I’ll do my best to get him fixed before the 8th, but I make no promises.

Whatever you end up talking about, please make sure that you don’t just talk from your “head”. Speak from your heart, as well. Convey your passion for the field, as well as your knowledge, and you’ll generate much more interest. If you show these people why you’re involved, and share your love of the subject, you just may help someone on their way toward making the next great breakthrough in Artificial Intelligence.

Hope this is useful to you.


  [ # 3 ]

Hi Chuck,

A few things pop into my mind:

-state of the art robot stuff always appeals. Check the state of the art thread:

-How to start. What tools to use. Which programming languages are often used: Perl, Common Lisp. Standards AIML etc.

-Add an avatar or not. Which tools are available.

-Why it is more than difficult than you think. A lot of people start enthusiastically, and end up with an Eliza style chatbot (1966).

-Tell them in details about Walter and the architecture you have designed. Very cool stuff. Also the addition of the geospatial information will appeal to them. Don’t underestimate your own project.

-Jokes: Why don’t you check this thread about chatbot humor:

-Your future vision on chatbots and how they will integrate in gaming world.

Please feel free to invite them to your My Little Chatbot project. They will be more than willing to learn more and provide even more ideas. Circulate a piece of paper where they can leave their email address and invite them through email afterwards. That’s the best way. If you simply leave the url on white board, people will forget it; if you give them a piece of paper, they’ll loose it. An email with one hyperlink and a short introduction is best.

Don’t hesitate to direct them to me for additional questions. I’ll be happy to help (as long as it it not too techie wink )

Enjoy your talk!



  [ # 4 ]

I read your question this morning and had been thinking about it for a while, cause I’d agree, spreading the gospel is pretty important. But then I read the other answers, and I can’t top that. wink


  [ # 5 ]

Hi Guys,
Thanks for the terrific response!  I have enough now to fill up a two-day seminar. =)  I’ll most definitely explore and review each of the links you have provided.

One thing I would like to do is this. Given all of our technology today (robotics, speech recognition, 3D graphics, etc.) we can build a really cool robot or virtual bot…with one critical piece missing. The ‘conversation’ algorithm is still pretty poor and needs a lot of work to make the bot or robot seem convincingly human.  I want to emphasize that this missing piece is one of the ‘last frontiers’ of computer science…in terms of making a lot of my science fiction movies come true. (E.g. 2001 HAL, Star Trek computer, Battlestar Galactica (number 6 and cyborgs)).

I’ll probably start with an interactive demostration of what I labeled 10 years ago as the “Sandra Bullock Project”. I mentioned this in my project thread but it represents a system that could be used with elderly care. The cool part is all of the technology exists today…with the exception of the ‘conversation’ piece I referenced above.

This will serve as a segway into the current state of chat bot development, it’s history, the Loebner Prize, “How to Get Started”, etc.  I’ll use your input to detail this portion.

Please keep more ideas coming if you think of something.

Thanks again,




  [ # 6 ]

Actually it would be nice to say something about this years Loebner Price where Bruce Wilcox’s Suzette manages to fool a judge:


  [ # 7 ]

there’s a number of white papers on our website regarding chatbots that you also might wish to download.


  [ # 8 ]

Final Update

I made the presentation to a couple of professors and about 10 students this evening at the local university.  This chapter of the Association of Computing Machinery held their very first meeting tonight.  The group was enthusiastic and I had a lot of fun. My 30 minute presentation lasted 45 minutes. They didn’t seem to mind…due to the excessive supply of pizza available in front of them…not necessarily due to my words of wisdom.

We spoke of our interests related to computers. I shared my interests in connecting computers to the real world, robotics (autonomous programming), data mining, and game development.

I shared my Sandra project vision for nursing homes and this led into a discussion of NLP and chat bots, history and the most recent Loebner prize results.

I concluded by pointing them out that the algorithm for the ‘human-like’ conversation is still unsolved and is wide open research and development. I also encouraged them to practice programming solutions to real world problems.

Thank you to everyone for the links. I clicked on everyone and every bit was useful.  I only wish I had several hours to the topic of chatbots justice.



  [ # 9 ]

Fantastic Chuck! It was a pleasure to help.

About Chatbots Justice: last year I’ve seen a presentation during the Chatbots 3.0 conference from Francis Taney, Buchanan Ingersoll.

I’ll ask him to write something here. I’m sure you’ll be interested!



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