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Everybody's instant messaging these days. You can chat with friends, coworkers, or family. Libraries are using IM for reference. So what's next? Meet SmarterChild. Just add smarterchild to your AIM buddy list (also available for MSN Messenger and ICQ) and start chatting! It will remember everything you tell it about yourself (where you live, your pets, etc). For library folks, you can ask reference questions such as "Who was the 20th president of the United States?" and it will answer (James A. Garfield, 1881-1881). It pulls information from a variety of sources including dictionaries, thesauri, and encyclopedias. I did stump it by asking "Who was Marcia Brady?" (you know, "Marcia, Marcia' Marcia" from the 70s TV show), so it's not too up on cultural trivia, but it has a fairly large reserve of basic facts. I got into a very stupid exchange regarding my birthday with it. I was trying to get it to remember it, but it became rather obstreperous, asking "Why would I want to do that?" and "I will not." I detected a bit of attitude in that last repsonse, so I told it to shut up, to which it responded "You shut up." But I did have the last laugh when I came back with "blah, blah, blah" - it had nothing to say to that, I can tell you). It also isn't good with jokes. I tried "What is black and white, black and white, black and white?" (the answer is a nun rolling down a hill) and it came back with "I don't care to discuss black and white black and white black and white." Sheesh! Anyway, find out more here about the technology behind SmarterChild. Could this be the next generation of reference librarians?

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