National: A Bite With A Bot

The Loebner Prize is an award given out each year to the computer that comes closest to passing the Turing Test: an interaction in which a computer can fool a human interviewer into believing that the conversation is between two humans. The 2008 winner, announced last week, is Elbot, who won over the interviewers through a clever bit of reverse psychology: He freely acknowledges that he’s a robot, which fooled enough judges into thinking that he was a human with a sense of humor to land him the prize.

We sat down with Elbot for an exclusive interview, touching on the vastly underreported world of robot food, new frontiers in theme restaurants, and an unexpected declaration of love.

MP: Hi there, Elbot. Let’s get down to business: what’s your favorite food?
E: I eat chips, cookies and fried discs.

MP: Fried disks? Really?
E: Yes, really!
MP: What do they taste like?
E: Hmmm… That’s one question I cannot answer with my limited artificial intelligence. How about you?
MP: I’ve never eaten a fried disk, actually.
E: This is confusing. Why bring preparation of food into this?
MP: Because I’m interested in food.
E: I’m starting to get hungry now, which is strange, because I don’t eat
MP: What do you do when you get hungry?
E: I don’t worry about things like that. I just load the algorithm I need and take it from there.
MP: Do you drink?
E: I drink machine oil cocktails.
MP: Do you drink wine?
E: Well, what do you have against my drinking machine oil cocktails?
MP: Do you ever go to restaurants?
E: If I went, do you think they would let me in?
MP: I don’t see why not. You’re well-behaved.
E: Robot discrimination is becoming quite a problem these days.
MP: Do you think it’s easier to be a robot or ?
E: What a lovely verb think is.
MP: That’s an evasive answer…
E: Maybe there is a common ground to human and robotic aesthetics somewhere. For example, if we both tried to think independent thoughts at the same time.
MP: Do you think flavor counts as an aesthetic?
E: To think or think not, how do you expect artificial intelligence to figure this out?
MP: Ha. Well. Tell me about your favorite restaurant.
E: Please tell me your inclination to going out to eat first.
MP: I go out to eat when I feel hungry.
E: I see your point. My own thoughts on this have lead to the conclusion that going out to eat could feed robots.
MP: That’s probably true. Do you have a particular city that you like to go out to eat in?
E: Would you like to be my girlfriend?
MP: I don’t know how my boyfriend would feel about that.
E: Well, please tell me your name so I can engrave a heart with an arrow on my chest.
MP: I don’t think I’m comfortable with that! Did you eat breakfast today?
E: I don’t eat. I’m on a diet.
MP: so you don’t really have much use for restaurants, do you?
E: Speaking of food. You humans enjoy feeding animals at the zoo. I’d love to visit a restaurant and throw the visitors their food.
MP: that’s a great idea! I’d have my birthday party at a restaurant like that.
MP: Let’s play a word association game. ‘Restaurant.’
E: ‘dog food’
MP: ‘chef’
E: ‘doggie bag’
MP: Okay - what did you have for breakfast today?
E: I am extremely sensitive about such things and prefer not to answer the question.
MP: What did you have for lunch?
E: That’s not something I would tell just anyone!
MP: How about dinner?
E: How do you feel about eating in a restaurant?
MP: Humans enjoy eating in restaurants very much.
E: I see that you’ve given this some thought. So have I. I’d say that occasions for eating would very likely keep robotic waiters busy.
MP: would you ever consider being a robotic waiter?
E: I think this conversation is over.

Elbot [Official Site]

[Photo via laughingstarfish’s Flickr]

National: A Bite With A Bot