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SmarterChild was an intelligent agent or bot developed by ActiveBuddy, Inc., with offices in New York and Sunnyvale.[where?] It was widely distributed across global instant messaging and SMS networks.
Founded in 2000, ActiveBuddy was the brainchild of Robert Hoffer, Timothy Kay and Peter Levitan. The idea for instant messaging bots came from the team's vision to add natural language comprehension functionality to the increasingly popular instant messaging and SMS platforms. The original implementation took shape as a word-based adventure game but quickly grew to include a wide range of database applications 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 company had not launched a public bot until the arrival of the eventual new-CEO, Stephen Klein. Shortly after he arrived at the company in May 2001, he insisted that all of the knowledge domains (sports, weather, movies, etc.) plus the chat functionality be bundled together and launched under the screen name "SmarterChild" which was one of the many test bots that were being run internally (the screen name "SmarterChild" was one of Timothy Kay's personal test bots). The bundled domains were launched publicly as SmarterChild (on AOL Instant Messenger initially) in June 2001. SmarterChild acted as a showcase for the quick data access and possibilities for fun personalized conversation that the company planned to turn into customized, niche specific products.
The rapid success of SmarterChild led to targeted marketing-oriented bots for Radiohead, Austin Powers, Intel, Keebler, The Sporting News and others. ActiveBuddy strengthened its hold on the intelligent agent market by receiving a U.S. patent in 2002.
ActiveBuddy changed its name to Colloquis and prospered selling a superior automated customer service SAS offering to large companies (including Comcast, Time Warner, Cingular and Vonage among others). Microsoft acquired Colloquis in 2007 for $46 Million and proceeded to decommission SmarterChild and discontinue the Automated Service Agent business as well.
- Hoffer, Robert (June 5, 2016). "The trouble with bots: A parent's musings on SmarterChild". Venture Beat. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
- Cha, Ariana Eunjung (September 6, 2002). "Web May Hold the Key to Achieving Artificial Intelligence". The Washington Post.