SmarterChild was an intelligent agent or "bot" developed by ActiveBuddy, Inc., with offices in New York and Sunnyvale. It was widely distributed across global instant messaging networks. SmarterChild became very popular, attracting over 30 million Instant Messenger "buddies" on AIM (AOL) and MSN and Yahoo Messenger over the course of its lifetime.
Founded in 2000, ActiveBuddy was the brainchild of Robert Hoffer and Timothy Kay, who later brought seasoned advertising executive Peter Levitan on board as CEO. The concept for conversational instant messaging bots came from the founder's vision to add natural language comprehension functionality to the increasingly popular AIM instant messaging application. The original implementation took shape as a demo that Kay programmed in PERL in his Los Altos garage to connect a single buddy name, "ActiveBuddy", to look up stock symbols, and later allow AIM users to play Colossal Cave Adventure, a famous word-based adventure game, and MIT's Boris Katz Start Question Answering System but quickly grew to include a wide range of database applications the company called 'knowledge domains' including instant access to news, weather, stock information, movie times, yellow pages listings, and detailed sports data, as well as a variety of tools (personal assistant, calculators, translator, etc.). The bundled domains were launched publicly as SmarterChild (on AIM initially) in June 2001. SmarterChild provided information wrapped in fun and quirky conversation that the company later struggled to market as automated customer service agents to large corporations.
SmarterChild's popularity spawned targeted marketing-oriented bots for Radiohead, Austin Powers, Intel, Keebler, The Sporting News and others. ActiveBuddy co-founders, Kay and Hoffer, as co-inventors, were issued 2 controversial U.S. patents in 2002.
ActiveBuddy changed its name to Colloquis and targeted development of enterprise focused customer service agents. Microsoft acquired Colloquis in 2007 and proceeded to de-commission SmarterChild and kill off the Automated Service Agent business as well.
In many ways,[further explanation needed] SmarterChild was a precursor to Apple's Siri and Samsung's S Voice. As Shawn Carolan of Menlo Ventures, a Siri investor, said, "…When I first encountered Siri, SmarterChild already had 10 million users and was getting a billion messages a day… The market was speaking."
Robert Hoffer, ActiveBuddy co-founder, licensed the technology from Microsoft after Microsoft shelved the Colloquis technology.
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