Most of us talk to our computers on a semi-regular basis, but that doesn't mean the conversation is any good. We ask Siri what the weather is like, or tell Alexa to put some music on, but we don't expect sparkling repartee — voice interfaces right now are as sterile as the visual interface they're supposed to replace. Facebook, though, is determined to change this: today it unveiled a new research tool that the company hopes will spur progress in the march to create truly conversational AI.
The tool is called ParlAI (pronounced like Captain Jack Sparrow asking to parley) and is described by the social media network as a "one-stop shop for dialog research." It gives AI programmers a simple framework for training and testing chatbots, complete with access to datasets of sample dialogue, and a "seamless" pipeline to Amazon's Mechanical Turk service. This latter is a crucial feature, as it means programmers can easily hire humans to interact with, test, and correct their chatbots.