This article in the LA Times (free registration required) reveals that companies are using artifical agents called “digital buddies” to pitch their products on Instant Messaging services. These bots are programmed to make friends and small talk, and they’re eerily good at it. They take cues from questions and answers, searching databases for conversational fodder, and then urge people to buy Ford trucks, check out the eBay auction site and take in “The Lord of the Rings.” Most buddies are programmed with personalities that appeal to their target audiences. For example, ELLEgirlBuddy, the Internet ego of teen magazine ELLEgirl, is a redheaded 16-year-old who likes kickboxing, the color periwinkle and French class. Though most users are aware they are communicating with a computer, some engage in deep conversation with these buddies, talking to them as they would to friends. Many of the companies are using technology from ActiveBuddy, which offers the BuddyScript Server and Software Development Kit for building and deploying interactive agents.
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