“Quickly” is a relative term. If you opt to take advantage of MyCyberTwin’s entire collection of training tools, you could easily spend a day or more programming your cybertwin. The reward, however, is a more convincing simulacrum than Eliza or most of the other consumer-level “chatterbots” that have been written since Eliza’s day. Because a cybertwin can be armed with limitless information about you, it’s much more intimate and engaging to converse with than many competing chatterbots, such as the instant-messaging-based bots from Spleak, avatar-based chatterbots from Verbots, or Microsoft’s virtual search assistant, Ms. Dewey.
Of course, academic and corporate AI experts have built more-advanced chatterbots in hopes of one day passing the so-called Turing test by convincing human judges that a machine is human. Since 1991, the annual Loebner Prize competition has offered $25,000 to the programmer of the first chatterbot that passes this test in a text-only conversation; so far, the prize has gone unclaimed. But Jabberwacky, the winner of the smaller $2,000 prize for the most human-seeming chatterbot in 2005 and 2006, is capable of deep and sometimes bizarre conversations that make a cybertwin sound rather vacant. Designed by Rollo Carpenter of the U.K. AI company Icogno, Jabberwacky stores every conversation it has ever had and uses pattern-matching techniques to generate contextually appropriate responses in a new conversation.
For $30 per year, you can get a Jabberwacky chatterbot that mimics your own personality. But it can’t be embedded into another website, and it must be trained through lengthy, repetitious conversation. Starting off with MyCyberTwin is far easier: you choose a base personality, such as “warm-hearted, intellectual” or “cheeky, down to earth,” and answer about 30 questions about yourself drawn from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a widely used personality-assessment system. After that, however, there are optional “classroom” modules that ask a total of 425 fairly deep questions in 18 subject areas, such as family, humor, philosophy, and politics.
Writing a thoughtful answer to a question such as “What is the meaning of life?” is bound to take at least a few minutes; now multiply that by several hundred. Indeed, the classroom questions are so probing and thorough that I doubt many MyCyberTwin users will put in the work. I made an attempt with my own cybertwin. The basic setup process was simple and easy. But I spent about three hours on the classroom questions and only completed three subject areas.
Once you’re finished training your cybertwin, you can give people the link to your personal page at MyCyberTwin.com, or you can make your cybertwin appear on another Web page by pasting the provided code into that page’s source HTML. If your cybertwin turns out to be extremely popular and you pass the limit of 500 conversations per month, you can buy more credits for a price that RelevanceNow hasn’t yet announced.
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