just thought i'd post a quick update on work in progress, since there hasn't been an motd for a while.
the pancreatics are very focused right now on enhancing our online robots. our friends the code warriors have enabled access to a new 'chatterbot' engine called 'ALICE', which we think will be far more flexible and natural-sounding than the one we use today. so, we're in the process of re-implementing help and marvin in the new environment.
when we bring the new implementations online, at first they'll seem about the same to most users. over time though they'll start to seem more natural, as we read their logged conversations. the new code will allow them to become better and better at understanding the real things y'all actually say to them. well -- that is -- they don't actually understand anything, but we can add rules that better represent your real-world questions and so on. this will make it more likely that they'll respond in the way you're looking for.
although this is kind of a low-visibility effort, it's intriguing to us because it provides, among other things, a way to assist newbies when there are no experienced players online. and, it'll enable some of the really ambitious chat-bots we have in mind down the road.