Bletchley Park to host 2012 Loebner Prize

Over 60 years after computing godfather Alan Turing first proposed the Turing Test, the 2012 Loebner Prize competition is set to come to Turing's wartime workplace at Bletchley Park.

The annual competition sets out to find the most human-like chatbot, with each bot getting five minutes in front of a panel of judges, who interact with the computer via text.

No chatbot has so far succeeded in fooling the judges and passing the Turing test, and probably won't for some time, so instead the bots are scored according to their most human-like qualities. The bot with the best score at the end wins a bronze medal and a prize fund of $7,000 (£4,623).

The gold medal will be given to the chatbot that eventually passes the Turing test, meaning it's indistinguishable from a human being. The prize fund for the gold medal currently sits at $100,000 (£66,000), but it's unlikely it will be claimed anytime soon.

The Loebner prize was originally set up by Dr Hugh Loebner in 1990, who still sponsors the competition today. Previous recent winners include Rollo Carpenter, of Jabberwacky and Cleverbot fame, as well as last year's winner at Brighton, Dr David Levy.

Levy will be organising the 2012 event at Bletchley Park on 15 May, which will form a part of the celebrations surrounding the centenary of Turing's birth in 1912.

The Turing Test first appeared in a 1950 paper called Computing Machinery and Intelligence, in which Turing proposed that a machine could be judged as intelligent if it could fool a human examiner into thinking the machine was human.

He predicted that by the turn of the Millennium, "an average interrogator will not have more than 70 per cent chance" of figuring out whether they were conversing with a machine or a human.

Although AI hasn't lived up to Turing's expectations so far, Bletchley Park points out that "the stimulus of the Loebner Prize has helped to encourage progress, and it is only a matter of time before a program succeeds in passing the Turing Test."