PCs should be seen and not heard, right?
Wrong. At least, if you're a competitor questing for the conversational grail of artificial intelligence (AI), the Loebner Prize.
Run since 1990, the annual competition which looks to find the best conversationalist with a hard drive and lots of RAM, is being held this weekend at London's Science Museum.
Loebner's competition awards medals and cash prizes of up to £70,000 ($100,000) to the inventors of computer programs that can maintain the most life-like dialogue.
It's a variation of the Turing Test, thought up by pioneering mathematician Alan, erm, Turing.
The test is whether a panel of judges can distiguish the conversation of the computer from that of two humans.
If half are convinced by the computer's human speech qualities, a silver medal is awarded; gold greets the unanimous inability of the judges to tell a computer program or a human apart; while a bronze is given for best effort.
To date, a bronze has been the most recieved accolade by entrants, as none of the competitors have ever managed to fool all of the judges, all of the time - or even half of them.
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