Chatterbots vie for $100K Loebner Prize

October 5th, 2008

On Sunday October 12, six computer chatterbots will sit down with six human judges at the University of Reading and try to convince them that they are not machines, but humans. The winner might take away the grand Loebner Prize worth $100,000. The Loebner Prize competition is a modified and simplified Turing test intended as a measure of machine intelligence. Here’s how Wikipedia describes it.

“The Loebner Prize is an annual competition that awards prizes to the Chatterbot considered by the judges to be the most humanlike of those entered. The format of the competition is that of a standard Turing test. In the Loebner Prize, as in a Turing test, a human judge is faced with two computer screens. One is under the control of a computer, the other is under the control of a human. The judge poses questions to the two screens and receives answers. Based upon the answers, the judge must decide which screen is controlled by the human and which is controlled by the computer program.”

This year, the competition is taking place ar Reading under the direction of Professor Kevin Warwick. The thirteen initial entries which have been reduced to six finalists.

Jeremy Gardiner
Qiong John Li
Peter Cole & Benji Adams
Elizabeth Perreau
Simon Edwards
Robert Scott Mitchell

The competition was started in 1990 by Hugh Loebner, who put up a set of cash prizes, including one worth $100,000 for the “first chatterbot that judges cannot distinguish from a real human in a Turing test that includes deciphering and understanding text, visual, and auditory input.” A fact of local interest is that Hugh Loebner worked at UMBC as the assistant director of computing in the 1980s. He left UMBC to run his family’s business, which at the time was doing well manufacturing roll-up disco dance floors for parties.

Over the years the Loebner prize competitions has come under considerable criticism from the AI research community. A common option among AI researchers is that the competition is more about publicity than science and encourages people to try to do well by exploiting tricks and competition-specific strategies rather than work on the fundamental problems underlying the development of intelligent machines. This article in Salon, Artificial stupidity, summarizes the positions.

Here are some stories on the 2008 Loebner Prize competition in the press: ‘Intelligent’ computers put to the test’, Invasion of ‘human’ robots and Artificial Conversational Entities: Can A Machine Act Human and Be Given ‘Rights’?.