Spleak speaking

If you use MSN Messenger and like playing English language games with chatterbots, try the beta version of Spleak, a female avatar produced by IMT Labs, a Danish start-up dedicated to enhancing the web interface experience. You can download Spleak for free and then yak away.

The underlying idea is that Spleak will act as an interface to information and eventually other services over and from the web. For this beta version, you can ask for word definitions, find out facts on U.S. presidents (!) and even ask for a Shakespeare play to read. Spleak naturally has Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, which then unfurls a dozen or so lines at a time in your Messaging window. Well, it’s a start. This beta is designed to help IMT Lab build up a corpus of questions, language usage etc. to expand the knowledge base and enrich the user experience. But it is not clear whether the program actually uses your query to consult existing web resources.

If you start trying to chat Spleak up, she does pretty well at evading the issue. If you treat her like ELIZA, the mythic shrinkbot program built by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1966, and tell Spleak you have a problem, she’ll probably reply “Whatever.” And when I asked why she’s called Spleak, she offered me a spell checker. As Hamlet would have said, Glet thlee to a nlunnery!


Andrew Joscelyne
European, a language technology industry watcher since Electric Word was first published, sometime journalist, consultant, market analyst and animateur of projects. Interested in technologies for augmenting human intellectual endeavour, multilingual méssage, the history of language machines, the future of translation, and the life of the digital mindset.

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