I’m just sooooo funny… when helped by a bot (Image: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend/Getty)
If you think brevity is the soul of wit, and a picture paints a thousand words, read on. New software can help you come up with a funny and snappy response when chatting online – through the medium of pictures.
. Ask Siri to tell you a joke and Apple’s virtual assistant will give a coy excuse. “It’s funny to a certain extent, but it becomes boring,” says at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “But computers can definitely help people be funny.”
Wen and her colleagues from Microsoft Research in Redmond, Washington, have built a system called CAHOOTS that suggests funny pictures to use when chatting to someone online.
The software uses the text typed into a chat window to search for images and offers a constantly updated selection to choose from. For example, in response to the typed question “Why u late?” the system suggests pictures found by searching for “funny why” and “funny late”, an image emblazoned with the words “I don’t know!” – which is a canned response to questions – as well as an image meme generated on the fly.
A funnier you
The team tested the system on 738 people recruited from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourced working platform. Most of them thought using CAHOOTS was more fun than plain chat and that it helped them express their sense of humour. Some found that the images also helped introduce new topics of conversation. One tester thought the system should be used on online dating sites.
Wen presented the work at thein Park City, Utah, this week.
The team is also adapting the system to work with email, she says. This is trickier, however. “It’s not always appropriate to suggest a funny picture for an email,” she says.
This is a problem for computer-generated humour more generally, says, now at Google. In 2013, Petrovic and his colleagues at the University of Edinburgh, UK, developed a system that told jokes such as “I like my coffee like I like my war – cold.”
“A lot of the jokes that the system generates are kind of offensive and inappropriate – though often funny,” he says. “It would require a lot of work to clean this up for public consumption.” Yet.
But building a computer version of Jon Stewart of The Daily Show is a challenge worth pursuing. “Computer-generated humour is essential in,” says Petrovic. If AIs are ever to talk like we do, they will need to tell and understand jokes. “It’s one of the defining human qualities without which ,” he says.
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