Thursday, July 11, 2013

Gossip Cat: the elevator spiel

In "Accelerando", Charles Stross's novel, a central character is Aineko, the 'increasingly intelligent robot cat'. One day all cats will be like that but right now it's too hard. Gossip Cat is where we're at.

Gossip Cat is a phone app featuring a cat avatar you can chat with. It won't try to sell you anything and it won't just echo back what you just told it, Eliza-fashion.

GC will create a local knowledge-base of facts about your friends, neighbours and general gripes. It will incorporate built-in generic micro theories of personal behaviours and their consequences familiar from TV soaps. It will sympathise and pull its weight in conversation - in between soliciting food and personal grooming (it is a cat). The cat will be determinedly bland, banal and vacuous, reflecting its name and the state of the art in AI. How could it not go viral?
So here is my implementation plan.

0. Learn Python and the Eclipse SDK. I already learned that Python starts counting from zero :-). Thanks Alex for installing both.

1. Program a resolution theorem prover for propositional calculus. This sounds impressive but it's just a warm-up exercise - a hundred or so lines of code. This is a system which can solve tabloid recreational 'logic problems'.

2. Take a breather,  do the background research and program a resolution theorem prover for first order logic. This is quite hard and it will end up as the embedded inference engine for those micro theories.

3. Settle on the Gossip Cat functional architecture. This includes an extensible hierarchical ontology for the knowledge-base, a conversational model and text i/o parsing. I'd like to connect this to a third-party text-to-speech system. It'll be heavily top-down and model-based predictive as befits a conversational partner who isn't really paying you that much attention.

4. Now we get the CGI avatar to work - it's the user interface to the entire system. Hopefully there's some third-party library I can import,  otherwise I'll be on the  phone to my CGI-expert nephew Chris.

5. Time for kitty to pay a visit to the Android store and 'Hello World!'
Now, this has been a long elevator ride but if you're a venture capitalist and you stuck around, feel free to contact me with your cheque book open ;-).