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And where Eliza’s natural-language processing abilities were crude at best, Barbie’s powers rest on vast recent advances in machine learning, voice recognition, and processing power.Plus Barbie—like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and other products in the “conversational computing” boom—can actually speak out loud in a voice that sounds human.But the game only lasts until a player navigates to the front door of the mansion—less than a minute of play.Decades go by, and I prove better suited to journalism than programming.
Now it’s May 2016, he is 80 years old, and I am holding a digital audio recorder.
But by the time I put that tome on the shelf, my ambitions have already moved beyond it. I think I have found a better way to keep my father alive.
It’s 1982, and I’m 11 years old, sitting at a Commodore PET computer terminal in the atrium of a science museum near my house. The computer is set up to run a program called Eliza—an early chatbot created by MIT computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum in the mid-1960s.
“I want to create technology that allows people to have conversations with characters who don’t exist in the physical world—because they’re fictional, like Buzz Lightyear,” he says, “or because they’re dead, like Martin Luther King.”My father receives his cancer diagnosis on April 24, 2016.
A few days later, by happenstance, I find out that Pull String is planning to publicly release its software for creating conversational agents.