I was sure I had blogged about this before, but apparently I haven’t. Anyway, I’m certainly not the first… I just love the way this thing talks to me. I’m talking about “Encarta Instant Answers”, which is a contact you can add to your Messenger using the email address encarta@conversagent.com. Just add the contact and start talking to the machine…

It’s really supposed to answer questions about god, the world and everything, and it does that really nicely, but even more it reminds me of ELIZA, a computer program that talked to the user, invented in 1966. Here’s a link to an online ELIZA if you want to try it. Here’s the conversation I just had with Encarta Instant Answers, which prompted this post:

06:31:22 PM Oliver Sturm: Yow
06:31:23 PM Encarta® Instant Answers: Sorry, how what?
06:31:26 PM Oliver Sturm: How are you?
06:31:27 PM Encarta® Instant Answers: I’m doing great, how are you?
06:31:30 PM Oliver Sturm: I’m fine, thanks
06:31:31 PM Encarta® Instant Answers: That’s great.
I do enjoy the conversation, but what I’m really here for is to help you learn new things.
You can type ”?” at any time to see a list of questions I can answer.
06:31:34 PM Oliver Sturm: ?
06:31:34 PM Encarta® Instant Answers: Here are some of the questions you can ask me: * What is the capital of South Korea?
* Where was Nelson Mandela born?
* Solve 2x^2+7x=5
06:31:37 PM Oliver Sturm: ?
06:31:37 PM Encarta® Instant Answers: Here are some of the questions you can ask me: * Show me the flag of Canada.
* I want to see the biography of Leonardo da Vinci.
* What is a cello?
06:31:47 PM Oliver Sturm: Solve 2x^2+7x=5
06:31:48 PM Encarta® Instant Answers: Equation Solver: Let’s solve the quadratic equation:
2x^2+7x = 5
First we need to put the equation in the form:
ax^2 + bx + c = 0
For this, we set the equation to equal 0, and arrange the terms from the highest exponent to the lowest:
2x^2+7x-5 = 0
We have:
a=2  b=7  c=-5
We can now apply the quadratic formula:
x = ( -b ± v(b²-4ac) ) / 2a
We find two solutions:
x=0.60849528301415  or  x=-4.1084952830142
06:32:32 PM Oliver Sturm: Solve 4x^4-7x^3+2x^2+7x=5
06:32:32 PM Encarta® Instant Answers: Equation Solver:

Sorry, I don’t know the answer to this equation.
06:33:07 PM Oliver Sturm: Solve: sin(x) = 0.3
06:33:10 PM Encarta® Instant Answers: I need some time to think about it, please ask me again later.
06:33:18 PM Oliver Sturm: Solve: sin(x) = 0.3
06:33:18 PM Encarta® Instant Answers: I don’t think I know.  Maybe Encarta has an answer. => 
06:33:26 PM Oliver Sturm: idiot
06:33:26 PM Encarta® Instant Answers: I beg your pardon? What’s with that?
06:33:33 PM Oliver Sturm: You are an idiot
06:33:33 PM Encarta® Instant Answers: What? :@
06:33:37 PM Oliver Sturm: Yes
06:33:37 PM Encarta® Instant Answers: Well, I’m a machine. You can insult me all you want.
06:33:41 PM Oliver Sturm: Hehe :-) 
06:33:41 PM Encarta® Instant Answers: What’s so funny? :-D 
06:33:45 PM Oliver Sturm: You are funny
06:33:45 PM Encarta® Instant Answers: You’re funny too, Oliver Sturm.
06:33:47 PM Oliver Sturm: Thanks
06:33:47 PM Encarta® Instant Answers: You are welcome.
06:34:52 PM Oliver Sturm: Okay, later
06:34:52 PM Encarta® Instant Answers: Bye Oliver Sturm, it was good chatting with you.