Have a chat with a Verbot

Create intelligent, verbal robots with this fun program.

Most of us have encountered online chat robots, virtual people who can hold conversations--at least sort-of--with mixed and sometimes hilarious results. Verbot lets users create their very own such robots. It takes some effort to learn how to use Verbot, and even more to create a bot that's capable of decent conversation. But if you're willing to invest some time, Verbot can be a fun and useful program.

Verbot comes with both an editor, which lets users create rules for their Verbots, and a player, which allows users to interact with their Verbots. Several sample Verbots are included so that users can get a feel for how they work and what they're capable of. Creating a Verbot that can have a reasonable approximation of a normal conversation involves creating rules about how it will respond to user inputs. This can be as simple as having the Verbot respond with a specific location when a user asks where it's from or as complex as having the Verbot parse out specific components of user inputs and respond accordingly. The built-in Help file explains how to create various kinds of rules and specify synonyms; it takes some work to get the hang of it, but it's not terribly difficult once you figure out what you're doing. In addition to verbal responses, Verbot can also launch programs and Web sites, which makes them useful as well as fun. We do wish that the Help file were more thorough and that it addressed such issues as customizing the Verbots' appearance and voices; as far as we can tell, this can only be done by downloading additional agents from a Web site. Still, Verbot is a lot of fun to play around with, and it can yield some pretty impressive results if you're willing to invest some energy into it.

Verbot comes as a ZIP file. It installs a desktop icon without asking but uninstalls cleanly.

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