Turing tests have received a lot of attention lately thanks to Brian Christian and his new book, The Most Human Human: What Talking With Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive. The book describes Christian’s experience participating in the Loebner Prize competition, a contest that awards the computer program that most accurately replicates human interaction. Contests such as these are designed to advance AI technology, the goal being a program that provides responses indistinguishable from those of a human and can therefore be considered to be thinking.
It may sound like science-fiction, but such programs are actually being used more and more on the web. Companies like Ikea are using virtual assistants on their websites to help customers, virtual humans that respond to perceived human emotions are used for training medical students and law enforcement, and a variety of chat bots that are designed to replicate human conversation can be found online.
Want to see a chat bot in action? Talk with Suzette, winner of the 2010 Loebner Prize (registration required) or the 2008 winner Elbot (no registration needed).