The Loebner Prize Medal is awarded annually to the designer of the computer system that best succeeds in passing a variant of the Turing Test, in which human judges communicate with a workstation and try to decide which of the systems in the competition is a program and which a person. The winning program is the one the judges are least able to distinguish from the human interlocutors taking part. Complex competition rules control typing speeds and so on, so that the machine entries do not give themselves away by typing too fast.The competition is overseen by the ACM, the main US organization for computer professionals, and for the last two years there has been no domain restriction on what can be talked about: programs entering must in principle be prepared to talk about anything at all. CONVERSE (the 1997 winner) had strong views on the lesbian couple Bill Clinton had welcomed to the White House the night before the competition, and of course on Clinton himself. It narrowly beat out the 1998 winner, an Australian program that claimed to be a 14-year old girl marooned on a desert island and appealing for help over the World Wide Web.
Competitions have included American, Canadian and Australian programs and it is the first time it has been won by a non-US team. David Levy, Director of Intelligent Research, claimed that in twenty years people will be falling in love with these programs, and they are certainly more stimulating than Tamagotchi pets, and of a far higher standard than the Chatterbots currently available on the Web. The example below simply repeats exactly the kind of limited paraphrase, masquerading as chat, that was to be found in Schank's programs in the early 1970's. More details on past and future competitions and full transcripts of the 1997 Loebner competition can be found on the Web site: http://acm.org/ loebner/loebner-prize.htmlx. A sample of CONVERSE's 1997 performance is at the end of this article.