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Skype versus Avatar platform
 
 

I’ve been racking my brain for quite some time trying to hit on the ideal avatar platform.

However, I’m concluding that Skype, or any VoIP videoconferencing platform, would be best.

Does anyone have Denise or Ultra Hal configured for incoming Skype calls?  If so, I’d love to check it out!

Who needs to deploy a mobile app, or even web app, when you can just Skype the chatbot?

I would love to hear from anyone with experience doing this!

 

 
  [ # 1 ]

This is a timely post since I am now finalizing the beta feature set for Marie. I have thought about integration with Skype or some other VOIP service so Marie can make calls and send faxes. Imagine telling Marie to make a reservation at a restaurant, send an email, text message or even fax a document. These are the features that would make Marie competitive with services like Siri or Voice Actions which are platform dependent verses Marie which is 100% web based and cross browser compatible. It’s really difficult to compete in the mobile device market with all the AI apps that either integrated into the OS or available through third parties and sold in the app store.

So this really only leaves the open web market for an internet assistant. Lots of features and a great interface experience is the only way a bot application has a chance to gain users and survive in an already crowded space. The beta version of Marie is set to go public the middle of next month with a limited feature set, however I am already developing added features for the full release and I hope to include a VOIP type of service.

 

 
  [ # 2 ]

Hi Laura, the interesting thing about the Skype option is that ANYONE from ANY mobile or desktop could call an agent via VoIP videoconferencing, with fully interactive voice and realistic video animation.  I simply want to Skype my agent from my mobile, or desktop, see a realistic animation, and fully interact via voice, just as I would with any person.  (If I could tell my agent to Skype someone else, for whatever reason, so much the better.) 

Now, if I can just figure out how to run this fully in the cloud, and access the backend via some kind of remote desktop software, then I’ll be set!  ;^)

 

 
  [ # 3 ]

Oh I see… Well, I would think there should an API for Skype? I have not investigated that yet but knowing that Microsoft now owns Skype, I don’t think they will allow rouge developers to poke around with it. It will have to be accomplished using some back door approach I would guess.

 

 
  [ # 4 ]

Marcus,
What is the benefit of Skype vs just accessing it directly via the web? If your agent lives in the cloud you can access it from any web enabled device; cell phone, game console, desktop, etc.

 

 
  [ # 5 ]

Merlin, firstly who actually has a great (open) avatar interface for the web?  Not SitePal at $40 per month..  AFAIK, there is no decent (open) avatar interface for iOS at any rate..  The beauty of the Skype workaround is that it does away with the necessity for mobile and web apps completely..  Remember, we are talking multimodal agent here, fully voice interactive and realistically embodied.. 

This can in fact be done using Guile3d Denise, with the addition of the ManyCam.com product, however not yet with remote cloud hosting (PaaS)..

 

 
  [ # 6 ]

Merlin,

If I’m not mistaken.. I think Marcus is thinking more on the lines of having his bot use Skype and therefore the bot could contact others through Skype as well contacting with it. At least that’s the idea I had. Would it not be cool to get a Skype call from a bot with an avatar?

 

 
  [ # 7 ]

Every avatar solution has trade-offs.
Haptek and MS Agents are obsolete, although I did demonstrate the concept with MS agent based technology years ago.

The ultimate solution may be HTML 5. I have started a proof of concept on just such a solution. Jan has done some similar work with his latest bot avatar system.

Other potential solutions:
Unity 3d is an up and coming platform. http://unity3d.com/
Second Life may also be a solution for some people.

Zabaware is trying to build an open source engine. http://charengine.sourceforge.net/

Guile isn’t open but in the past they talked about a avatar tool that could integrate with 3rd parties. Their Skype integration is complex and not really the solution that you want (to see their avatar you would need to point your web cam at the screen).
http://guile3d.com/en/forum/how-to/skype-how-to-use-api-access/

 

 
  [ # 8 ]

Skype has a programming api.
In other words, my bot should already be able to do this, just write a wrapper dll that uses the api, load it up in my bot and use it in the scripts.

The only advantage I can see is having phone on the desktop. Is there any other reason? If you have a mobile app, it can already do all these things with the phone itself.

 

 
  [ # 9 ]

have seen just a few examples and they are now down:
http://www.chatbots.org/platform/skype/

however, I will contact the creator and ask how he did it! Hopefully he’ll respond in this thread!

 

 
  [ # 10 ]

Who needs to deploy a mobile app, or even web app, when you can just Skype the chatbot?

One very good reason for deploying on the mobile itself is integration: if you want you bot to be able to access the phone’s contact list, start a phone-call, store an appointment, take a picture,... you’ll need access to the OS function’s of the mobile device. That can only be done when there is an app running native. A bot through skype won’t be able to do that.

 

 
  [ # 11 ]

> http://www.livingactor.com/

Merlin provided a good summary of the current options.  Cantoche provides another option, “Living Actor Presenter” (used by Jason Yosinski etc. for their viral video, “AI vs. AI. Two chatbots talking”); but, I believe its also pricey on par with SitePal.

Erwin, what you have listed under Skype is for IM.  There is a tremendous amount of confusion about this all over the net in regard to chatbots.  Since chatbots are primarily textual, and so eminently compatible with XMPP, this naturally jumps into people’s minds first.

I think Jan gets it, and is quite right on the integration point as one true drawback.  People do complain a lot about the Siri clones not being able to do the deep OS manipulations that Siri can.

 

 
  [ # 12 ]

I agree that is a big hurdle when dealing with especially the mobile platform. Integration with the OS is key for a personal assistant type bot. I understand the limitations that my project faces as it is web based and does not have access to the OS API other than browser integration. With that said, Google Apps on the Chrome platform are solving some of these issues for web developers. I believe that the Chrome browser will be the standard for cloud applications and web integration for those apps that live in the cloud. I am excited about what the Google team are doing and I am staying on top of all the developer APIs are they are offered into beta.

 

 
  [ # 13 ]
Marcus Endicott - Feb 19, 2012:

>Erwin, what you have listed under Skype is for IM.

We simply don’t have examples in our directory that have ASR/TTS capabilities working on the Skype platform.

If you know example that should be listed, please use:
http://www.chatbots.org/directory/insert_chatbot/

sidenote: we expect that the chatbot definition will gradually widen over time, and include ASR/TTS, animation, but also computer vision, recognizing gestures, recognizing human emotions etc.

 

 
  [ # 14 ]
Marcus Endicott - Feb 8, 2012:

This can in fact be done using Guile3d Denise, with the addition of the ManyCam.com product, however not yet with remote cloud hosting (PaaS)..

> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Softcam

A softcam is essentially a software-based camera.

> http://www.meta-guide.com/home/about/best-of-the-best-videos/100-best-manycam-videos

I’ve been digging a little deeper into “softcams”, like ManyCam, and how people are using them for instance on ChatRoulette….

> http://www.meta-guide.com/home/about/best-of-the-best-videos/100-best-chatroulette-tutorial-videos

= = =

Forget the web, forget apps… Skype is available on virtually any platform.  People video conference with each other using Skype etc.  Why not solve the avatar problem universally?  Apparently anything that can run on your desktop can be routed into Skype via softcam.

The most “user friendly” avatar platform I’ve found is Second Life; so, I’m wondering if there is not some way to Skype (voice and video) interactively with a Second Life NPC avatar via softcam….

> http://www.quora.com/Second-Life/Can-a-Second-Life-avatar-be-displayed-interactively-on-a-website-or-in-a-mobile-app

 

 

 
  [ # 15 ]

Marcus, I do not believe Second Life is “user friendly”, because of huge downloads, heavy hardware requirements,  and a very complicated UI. Perhaps I misunderstand what you are suggesting.  It is a very useful platform for 3-D avatars.  You could build a very nice SitePal replacement with two computers.  It would be ‘single threaded’, though.

I have thought about using various avatars in Second Life to make a free animated avatar, but its ‘single-threaded’.  It’s a hack, but would make a really beautiful Sitepal replacement.  Just point the camera at the second computer screen, log in, and you could accept Skype calls and have a free-3d avatar answer the call.

Getting a bot to voice chat in Second Life is not terribly hard, as it supports HTTP in and out and Sitepal’s flash format and Javascript is supported with Firestorm and the standard viewer.  I have quite a few 3-D prim and avatar bots and wall paintings (such as Ceasar and Socrates, a animated tree, and “avatar” fairy and mermaid bot) in the sim “Phaze Demesnes”  that can voice and animate faces.

The fairy looks like this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoUyoBZswrc

They chat to anyone using Google translate as a front and back-end, and use a series of of local Rivescript, local Chatscript, remote Pandorabots, and remote Wolfram-Alpha bots as well as a backup Eliza bot depending upon my mood and what you ask them. It’s all coded in Perl and the free SQL server.  They can understand and type back in about 60+ languages.  I have some models than can speak verbally in 26 voices.

If anyone needs tips or code on Google translate, Perl modules to interface web pages to Rivescript, Chatscript,  Wolfram-Alpha, Second Life or SitePal for web or 3-D use, I know pretty much everything there is about it and you should contact me directly.

I have a few of the “painting’s “online in web format at http://metaverse.mitsi.com/avatar/
By purposely distorting Site pal avatars and using a special sculpted face, like this: http://metaverse.mitsi.com/pandora/caesar_bust.htm
You can get this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MN3eYUUnt5k

 

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