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Wannabe-human bots face 2012 Turing Test in Turing's old office

Bletchley Park chosen to mark 100th anniversary of boffin's birth

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An artificial intelligence software contest devised as an experiment by mathematician Alan Turing will be held this year in his old office at wartime code-breaking HQ Bletchley Park. The location was chosen to mark the centenary of his birth in 1912.

During the Turing Test a computer program must use natural language and hold a conversation to convince a human interrogator that it is a normal person rather than a machine. The exercise was described in Turing's paper Computing Machinery and Intelligence, which was published four years before his death in 1954.

The annual Loebner Prize implements the Turing Test to crown the most "humanlike" computer software, and four chatbots have made it through to the final round of this year's contest.

The judges will hold instant messaging chats with a mixture of bots and real humans, and then rank all the participants on a scale from most to least humanlike. The chatbot with the highest humanlike ranking wins the prize.

This year the interrogation will be streamed live over the internet for the first time in the competition's history, so everyone can look in and form their own opinions.

The Loebner Prize was started in 1990 with the aim of encouraging scientists to make a computer that could pass Turing's Test with a mastery of natural language processing and "thought" that would make it indistinguishable from a human.

Philanthropist Hugh Loebner put forward the funds for an annual prize of $7,000 and a bronze medal for the most human-like conversation-bot of the year. There's also a grand prize of $100,000 and a gold medal for the first computer whose responses are truly indistinguishable from a human's.

Turing and other Brit clever clogs were among a team of 3,000 at Bletchley Park during the Second World War where he helped crack military messages scrambled by Nazi Enigma machines. The prize-giving will be held in his old workplace as part of the celebrations surrounding the 100th anniversary of his birth on 23 June 1912.

The Turing Centenary Loebner Prize competition will take place on 15 May, starting at 1pm, and is run with the support of Exeter University, the Open University and IPCortex. ®

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