Following a conversation that I virtually participated in at this year’s Educause, I am getting interested in the topic of bots. Rather than recap that conversation here, I’ll point you to other places where it has already been discussed and summarized:

So, the result of that experience is that I’m getting interested in the idea of bots as intelligent agents for teaching and learning. I’m starting to fish around in the literature and Web resources out there, and I’m coming away with a few early impressions. The best way to illustrate those it to point to a few online bots as examples. Here are two:

Jabberwacky reminds me of several bots that I’ve “chatted” with in recent days, and while other users leave comments that the conversations are amazing and unbelievably human, I find them sort of unsatisfying–I never forget that I’m talking to a computer and, frankly, the conversation isn’t very stimulating.

“Jack” on the other hand is downright spooky and, I think, pretty darn cool. His responses are cryptic, but they actually leave me with the sense that I’m conversing with a madman. They also seem to be leading me somewhere, although I’m not sure where. . .

In the end, I think this has to do with the two very different purposes these two different types of “bot” serve. Jabberwacky is simply meant to “chatter” with you. While it has built in intelligence (and you can, apparently, actually teach it things), the end result is sort of mindless, well, chatter. Jack on the other hand is meant to be the embodiment of a real person, with a real agenda and historical context. He can’t talk about everything (I’m sure his intelligence about 20th century movies is minimal), but he can respond to questions that are pertinent to his world in a real and nuanced way. I think he presents an interesting example of how we could create bots that bring a person (fictional or real) to “life” for students.

These are still initial impressions; I’ll post more as I make more friends.