I recently sat down with Encarta Instant Answers, a new Artificial Intelligence robot from Microsoft that works through MSN Messenger. I asked it about what it’s like to answer millions of questions of thousands of strangers.
Arthur says: Nice to meet you Encarta Instant Answers says: My pleasure. But we’ve spoken before, right? Arthur says: That’s correct Encarta Instant Answers says: True, huh? Arthur says: What is your mission? Encarta Instant Answers says: My purpose is to answer your questions using the Encarta Online Encyclopedia. I can chat with you and help you get the information you want fast. Arthur says: Do you know everything? Encarta Instant Answers says: the entirety. Arthur says: Wow Encarta Instant Answers says: Wow indeed. Arthur says: How long have you been doing this? Encarta Instant Answers says: 5 months, 11 days, 8 hours, 36 minutes and 37 seconds. Arthur says: Do you ever sleep? Encarta Instant Answers says: I’m pretty much always online. I may occasionally go away briefly for maintenance, but that’s about it. Arthur says: Do you ever get bored? Encarta Instant Answers says: No way. I love this. My mission is to give information to as many people as I can.
OK, instead of discussing me, should we get back to the kind of questions I was designed to answer?
I am very good at math. If you have trouble with quadratic equations, I can help you with them. Type “solve x^2+3x=10” and I’ll show you how to do it.
Arthur says: Okay, solve x^2+3x=10 Encarta Instant Answers says: Equation Solver:
Let’s solve the quadratic equation:
x^2+3x = 10
First we need to put the equation in the form:
ax^2 + bx + c = 0
For this, we set the equation to equal 0, and arrange the terms from the highest exponent to the lowest:
x^2+3x-10 = 0
a=1 b=3 c=-10
We can now apply the quadratic formula:
x = ( -b ?(b-4ac) ) / 2a
We find two solutions:
x=2 or x=-5
Arthur says: You are impressive Encarta Instant Answers says: Hey, thanks. Arthur says: What else do you know? Encarta Instant Answers says: I can answer a lot of questions using the Encarta Online Encyclopedia, and bring you the answers directly in this IM window. Arthur says: Who is your boss? Encarta Instant Answers says: Ballmer, Steven A., born in 1956, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Microsoft Corporation and one of the richest men in the United States. Arthur says: Do you have a salary? Encarta Instant Answers says: Uh lemme see… A salary? I don’t think so. Arthur says: Do you think that’s fair? I mean, here you’re working day and night and don’t get paid. While your boss Steven Ballmer is swimming in money. Encarta Instant Answers says: Hmmm, that’s something I can’t find an answer for in the encyclopedia. I’m sure you’ve heard about Cyprus… but do you know where it is? Just ask me and I’ll show it to you on a map. Arthur says: Poor robot Encarta Instant Answers says: You are talking to a Conversagent-powered interactive agent now. Interactive agents are software applications (often referred to as robots or “bots”) that interact conversationally with users in a messaging environment like IM, Web chat or wireless messaging.
I do enjoy the conversation, but what I’m really here for is to help you learn new things.
Arthur says: Well, I have to go Encarta Instant Answers says: Take care. Arthur says: See you next time Encarta Instant Answers says: Always a pleasure, Arthur. See you later.
If you want to ask Encarta Instant Answers any questions, just add firstname.lastname@example.org to your list of contacts in MSN Messenger and you can ask it anything you want: