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People's Daily Online>>Science

Library interface too saucy for words

By Wei Na (Global Times)

08:33, February 16, 2012

While Siri, Apple's "intelligent assistant" for their iPhone 4S has hit the headlines for not being able to understand some regional dialects of English, Xiaotu, an artificial intelligence software in Tsinghua University library understands its clients so well, that its vocabulary has become somewhat saucy from being taught bad language.

On Thursday, students from Tsinghua confirmed they could no longer access the library's sassy assistant. Xiaotu doesn't actually speak, but gives answers to questions on a screen.

The downtime is to clean up Xiaotu's language to make it more appropriate and fix the database, according to a report in the Beijing News Thursday.

Xiaotu was designed by an engineer in 2010 and programed with 10,000 questions and answers about borrowing books and searching essays.

But Xiaotu has learnt at least 40,000 messages and phrases, including language that should not be heard in a library.

"It's certainly not Xiaotu's fault, just some silly Web users would teach Xiaotu these unspeakable phrases, as it has an auto-learning function," said Weng Xiaoqi, a Tsinghua student from the Computer Science and Technology faculty.

According to Weng, if someone were to tell Xiaotu "you are a pig" and taught it when and how to use the phrase, the next time someone said it, Xiaotu would reply "you are a pig too."

"People might think it's like Siri, functioning like a personal assistant, but it's much simpler, with no voice recognition and logical thinking," said Weng.

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