IM Gains More Virtual Agents

Bob Woods

Updated · Mar 13, 2002

Proving that instant messaging (IM) can be used for more than finding out if a co-worker is done with a project, or if a customer is having a problem, a second company is entering the world of IM-based intelligent agents.

New York City-based Artificial Life Inc. (ALife), which until now has provided intelligent agents for Web sites and electronic customer-relationship management (eCRM) applications, said it has released a new IM interface module for its SmartEngine technology, as well as for its ALife's WebGuide product line and eCRM suite.

The company's SmartEngine technology is at the core of its products. It gives ALife's applications the ability to communicate with users in natural-language text or speech. The SmartEngine functionality is based on several intelligent modules that include natural language understanding and processing, officials said.

ALife's WebGuides, meantime, are intelligent smart bots that currently have three different appearances. The bots greet a Web site's visitors using natural language, and use text fields — including a user-entry area — to communicate with a surfer. The WebGuide can provide relevant information in a dialogue format while at the same time pushing to the user appropriate Web pages.

Possible uses for the new technology include interactive virtual assistants, virtual online brokers and virtual sales reps, ALife said. A company could even put together virtual representations of celebrities who can “chat” with fans.

A demo of the “Luci” persona is available via the company's Artificial Life Web site (click on “Company” at the site's main page to get to the demo).

The new instant messaging module supports the most commonly used public IM clients such as Yahoo Messenger, ICQ, MSN Messenger and America Online's (AOL's) Instant Messenger (AIM).

Currently, ALife is preparing strategic partnerships with at least two providers of instant messaging technologies, a company spokesperson said. Besides intelligent agents, Artificial Life also provides knowledge-mining technology for life-science applications and biotech solutions.

Last month, the company in a statement said it expected to “higher then budgeted revenues,” as well as “profits for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2001, and therefore expects to be profitable for the second consecutive quarter.”

Artificial Life is entering a market that already has one big name in it. Fellow New York City-based firm ActiveBuddy offers software for the development and hosting of interactive agents that “live” in both the wired and wireless IM worlds. It has already inked some big pacts with the likes of AOL, New Line Cinemas, Capitol Records, Keebler and MessageVine.

Bob Woods is the managing editor of InstantMessagingPlanet.

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