Entertainment Technology Group

With the emergence of the Internet as a competitor to television, radio, motion pictures and print for creation and delivery of entertainment, important uses of this technology await discovery. This research merges computing and communications, with the goal being to evolve, invent and introduce new entertainment genres and the technology to enable these new uses of the medium. Creation of entertainment using technology, particularly when the entertainment itself is using the technology in new ways, will naturally lead to further development and maturation of the entertainment technology field. This group shares many common interests with the ACT Lab AI & Robotics Group.

Project: Talking Picture Frame

Purpose: Develop a speech interface to an intelligent agent.

Researchers: None at present

Researcher Alumni: Adrian Diaz

Applications: User interface design, kiosk interfaces, automated telephone interactions, electronic entertainment.


Our approach is to combine existing open source technology in AI intelligent agents (ProgramD, AIML, ALICE), low-cost Java speech recognition and speech generation libraries (CloudGarden), and a small form factor computer with microphone input, speaker output and a flat panel LCD display, to create an interactive intelligent agent in a picture frame.

AI Intelligent Agent

To implement a Java-based AI intelligent agent, the Alice Program D program is an excellent starting point. The personality can be modified using the AIML (Artificial Intelligence Modeling Language), enabling customization for different end-users.

Speech Interface

Excellent, inexpensive, Java speech interface support is available from CloudGarden. There is a pre-existing product that provides a similar interface to what this project hopes to develop, called AliceTalker. A personal license for the CloudGarden JSAPI is $16.

Small Form Factor Computer

To enable the finished project to be attractively and usefully displayed, we need a small but capable computer, including a flat-panel display, microphone input and speaker output.  Ideally, all would be integrated into (behind) the display, which could be hung on the wall.  If the computer also includes a video camera, there is the potential for incorporating visual input into the intelligent agent.

Research Plan

  • Step 1 - DONE - get AliceTalker, or equivalent speech I/O interface to ProgramD working. Download (and purchase) CloudGarden JSAPI, get a microphone, write up repeatable installation instructions, try it out. The instructions for setting it up are here.
  • Step 2 - Get AliceTalker and ProgramD to communicate via a port rather than the web server mechanism, and use the latest version of ProgramD.
  • Step 3 - Create a cool animated face or other on-screen entity that will move in response to speech output. Use Java, animate the mouth, etc. An example of a very simple version of this is here.
  • Step 4 - Determine one or more personalities to develop, and author the AIML to produce them. Scan the internet for tools that may be available to help with authoring AIML.
  • Step 5 - Research and acquire a small form factor PC to use as the deployment platform. Install, test, debug, refine, and test some more.
  • Step 6 - Release it to the world. Hang it on the wall in a public (enough) place, hopefully a place that has a low vandalism potential, and see what happens.  If the computer is network capable, find ways to gather data such as transcripts to use for later analysis.
  • Step 7 - Investigate using a better voice, such as a natural voice created using ModelTalker.


  • CloudGarden - produces Java Speech API and a variety of applications.
  • aitools.org - home of ProgramD and other AIML information.
  • A.L.I.C.E. - more information about ProgramD and other AIML engines written in a variety of languages other than Java.
  • Cybernet - makes an all-in-one PC for approx $1000.
  • Tangent - makes all-in-one PCs, high-end, for over $1000.

Project: Intelligent Chatbot

Purpose: Develop a software brain that passes the Turing Test

Researchers: open project

Applications: Contextual help, automated customer support, user interface design, computer game thinking


Our approach is to leverage existing chatbot technology, and focus on the design aspects of thought interactions.  This involves the use of Artificial Intelligence Markup Language (AIML), and XML specification for programming chatbots, and the Artificial Linguistic Computer Entity (ALICE) platform, an open source, natural language chatbot that relies on artificial intelligence for human interaction. The bulk of this research involves investigating and developing approaches to model convincing thought interactions in AIML.

Develop the "brain" for it to serve as a web-search proxy agent, a belligerent jerk, a pseudo-professor who is always waiting to answer student questions, or other interesting or quirky personalities.

AIML development

To implement a Java-based AIM chatbot, an excellent and well-developed platform is the Alice Program D program. Within the startup.xml configuration file, there is an easy way to enable an AIM listener.  Note that you have to configure Alice to login with a particular Screen Name and password, so this has to be created first at the AIM Screen Name registration page. To create a custom personality, new AIML must be created, so start by checking out the online documentation and also viewing the existing AIML files in the "aiml" directory in the Program D code.  To load specific AIML files into Alice's "brain," look in the startup.xml file for the <learn> tags. where you will specify a path to the AIML files that you want to load.

Setting up a ProgramD Chatbot

Use our quick-start tutorial to get an AIM Chatbot up and running quickly, and with as little pain as possible.

We sometimes have an experimental chatbot running, named IzzyChip that you can chat with.


  • SmarterChild - bot that does mediocre AI and provides info and plays games, an interesting first attempt, is ad supported
  • JavaBot - Java framework for creating chatbots.

Project: Web-based Science Entertainment

Purpose: Develop a science adventure web entertainment site.

Researchers: Tom Way


Space is possibly the last, and most intriguing, of science frontiers to explore. In this project, we will consider what would happen if a mission of fantastic proportions was undertaken, in secrecy, to assist an extra-Earth society in a time of crisis. The year is 1994. A signal is detected from the Alpha Centauri star system 4.37 light years away. At first incomprehensible, its message is now clear. An advanced civilization is in crisis. Its population is in peril. And they need our help.

Task, tools and ideas:

  • Video camera - low-quality, web-cam is fine
  • Video editing software - Windows Movie Maker may work, other open source alternatives should be investigated
  • Video conversion software - may or may not be needed, but one excellent option is Super ©
  • Video filters needed - need to degrade video to long-distance space transmission quality, and vary depending on distance.
  • Physics - need to chart travel path, apply limits of physics, light speed, engine technology, etc., to make outbound trip take approximately 9 years, and return trip take 6-9 years. Trip started 1999 or 2000, with arrival set for 2008 or 2009, some time for exploration, and then return trip due back in 2016. This requires development of engine technology that can accelerate the craft to, perhaps, 0.9c, requiring multiple fast revolutions around large bodies (sun, Jupiter, along travel route out of solar system).
  • Space science - need to solve problems of long term spaceflight, fuel, food, water, radiation protection, health, loneliness, entertainment, communication, return trip, sleep, aging, etc.
  • Extra-Earth civilization - need to determine what the civilization is capable of, where they live (planet around Alpha Centauri A or Alpha Centauri B, but not Proxima Centauri as it unlikely to be able to have developed or sustained the correct solar system conditions suitable for intelligent life).


updated: 10/01/09