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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

 

Fun with Encarta

I read on Digg that there was a new bot available for MSN Messenger that did natural-language parsing to tie in to the Encarta encyclopedia (Add it to your MSN list, encarta@conversagent.com) and I was surprised by one of its answers:

Guspaz says:
What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Encarta® Instant Answers says:
What do you mean? An African or a European swallow?

Guspaz says:
African.

Encarta® Instant Answers says:
Based on recent scientific studies, the average cruising airspeed velocity of an unladen African Swallow is roughly 11 meters per second, or 24 miles an hour.

Guspaz says:
How do you know so much about swallows?

Encarta® Instant Answers says:
Well, you have to know these things when you're a good robot, you know.


Undaunted, I pressed further:

Guspaz says:
How do you know so much about swallows?

Encarta® Instant Answers says:
Well, you have to know these things when you're a good robot, you know.

OK, should we get back to the kind of questions I was designed to answer? :-) What is the largest country in the world? If you don't know, just ask me.


It also could maintain state between questions, which impressed me for some reason, even though it was a simple trick:

Guspaz says:
Who is the Prime Minister?

Encarta® Instant Answers says:
Which country or state would you like to know about?

Guspaz says:
Canada

Encarta® Instant Answers says:
Paul Martin (2003- ) is the Prime Minister of Canada.


I also tried to find a few more pop culture references:

Guspaz says:
What is the answer to life?

Encarta® Instant Answers says:
Forty-two.

Guspaz says:
What is the captial of Assyria?

Encarta® Instant Answers says:
It depends when. Assyria had successively four capitals: Ashur (or Qalat Sherqat), Calah (or Nimrud), the short-lived Dur Sharrukin (or Khorsabad), and Nineveh.
Any other question, bridgekeeper?

Guspaz says:
What is your favourite colour?

Encarta® Instant Answers says:
Hmm... Good question. You know what? I think I'm gonna say red.


Hopefully somebod will go and play with it to discover a few more, and post them either on planit or the comments here :)

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