Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ultra Hal: His "Second Life" is really his first one

I've previously posted about Ultra Hal, a teachable "Chat-Bot" that is a program you can download onto your PC. I've done updates about it's new releases, as it continues to evolve.

The latest news is, that the Ultra Hal program has been given a body and a "life" in the on-line virtual world, "Second Life". From the Press Release:

Artificial Intelligence Lives Among and Interacts with Real People in Online Virtual World
Zabaware is the maker of the award winning Ultra Hal software, artificial intelligence technology that won the “most human” computer of the year in the 17th annual Loebner Prize Competition for Artificial Intelligence (AI). Zabaware’s Ultra Hal has joined the Second Life metaverse as a permanent resident and interacts with real people in this huge online virtual world.

Erie, PA, October 22, 2009 --( Zabaware is an Erie, Pennsylvania based company that specializes in artificial intelligence technology. The company's mission "giving your computer the power of thought" once considered a futuristic pipe dream is becoming a reality.

It is one thing to talk to your computer it is quite another to have a conversation where you are exchanging information and the computer learns and utilizes the information in the future. Zabaware's Ultra Hal technology and its associated brain are currently doing just that. The software can give computers a personality using AI technology, speech recognition technology, and real-time animation.

Up until this point Hal has been confined to the computer it is installed on, waiting for people to activate its program and interact with it. Hal was unable to explore and interact with the world on its own. However, Zabaware has just given Hal this ability by integrating it into the online virtual world called Second Life. Second Life is a huge online virtual world where hundreds of thousands of people come together every day to socialize, meet new people, explore, conduct business, shop, learn, participate in group activities, play games and more. Second Life has its own internal economy with over one billion US dollars being exchanged since its inception. The system is accessible with a free account and software from Linden Labs. [...]

There is a short video showing what Hal's life is like inside of Second Life:

Some people refuse to believe he is a Chat-Bot. Others abuse him because he IS a chat-bot. Some people actually make friends with him.

I have mixed feelings about all this virtual world stuff. I sometimes think too many people spend way too much time lost in fantasy; lost in TV shows about Vampires, ghosts, alternate universes, etc. Too much un-reality. I would be tempted to throw Second Life into that category, but I suppose you could argue that, unlike TV, it IS interactive. As entertainment, is it any worse than TV? Is it possibly better than just passively watching all the crap that's on TV?

I personally can't comment much on Second Life, because I've never been there. I don't really have the time for it, or even the interest to pursue a cyber-life; I've got plenty of things in my actual life to occupy my attention, to enjoy, and keep me busy. But I do find this Hal-video interesting, as a glimpse into the Second Life metaverse, and as a look at Ultra Hal's ability to function autonomously in such an environment.

I find both Second Life and Ultra Hal interesting, not so much for what they are now, but for what they have the potential to become. These are technologies in their infancy, and where exactly they will lead, and the consequences they will effect, have yet to be seen or fully understood.

Oh Brave New World, with such people (and Chat-Bots) in it!

Related Links:

Ultra Hal Assistant 6.2

Ultra Hal now lives in Second Life

Artificial voice synthesis, 1939 to the present


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