Thesis Statement

by Yang Liu on Feb.17, 2011, under Thesis



I have two degrees in my undergraduate study, which are Material Science and Engineering and Digital Entertainment Design. I always want to make something that people can play with. During ITP, I mostly focus on the web development.


Artificial intelligent machines have been in the si-fi movies and fictions for a long time. People always wondering what will happen if machines can have their own feeling and mind. Nowadays, besides the real-world life, people also have online life, which is their online social network. On the online world, people have their unique identity and activities. So I think it will be interesting to simulate people’s online behaviors through AI algorithm.

Avatar is an online Artificial Intelligent Social Network System, where users can register, setup, train their own online chatbots — Avatar. The Avatars will take all the information of users’ SNS sites (like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare) and analyze them. Based on the SNS data, and a series of AI and machine learning algorithms, the avatars will eventually speak and act as users themselves. Users can interact with each others’ avatar and also avatars can interact with each other. The goal of this project is to simulate an online social network community and in the same time provide a online-self which will never go offline to the users.



In the movie Terminator, a question was asked:

Whether AI machines can take over human beings?

What I want to discuss in my thesis is not simulating human beings in the real world but in the online world. Basically, the question I want to answer or explore is like:

Whether AI machines can simulate the people’s online behaviors, such as posting, chatting or checking in?


Another inspiration is the online chatbots, including the webbased chatbots and the IM spammers.

There are two project which are interesting.

A.L.I.C.E is one of the most famous chatbots online. She is based on a technology called “AIML”. What she does is when users ask her some questions, the program will search in this giant XML library which contains tons of different “dialogue” and pick the appropriate answer for the question.

Pandorabots is based on the same technology of A.L.I.C.E. It is a online chatbots community where users can host their own chatbots. And users can teach and train their chatbots by editing the AIML properties.


The social network website is the “behavior data” source for the thesis project. And these data can represent people’s personalities in some level. Therefore, the system will get the data from all these sites and analyze them to understand different users’s behaviors and personalities.


The AIs in the game SIMS is like the goal of the thesis project, in some level. They can interact with each other and make decisions. But I am never a fan of the SIMS, because I don’t care about the virtual AI people in the game. Whether they get married or not isn’t matter to me. But if the AI people represent the people I know in the real world and act like them, I will care what is going on about them.



First of all, I think the whole “taking over human beings online” concept is fun. And it is really interesting to make something based on this concept.

Can a online program speak and act as yourself online?

Taking over human beings in the real world is a way too big topic for the thesis. I need to consider whether the voice is like human voice, whether the facial expression is like real and all other things which will take decades to achieve.

But people don’t have that much “characteristics” when they are online. What people do is posting contents, comments to other people’s posting, updating status and checking in different places. If we can analyze these data and generate new contents for users, we can properly find a way to make the program act as a human being online.

What will happen when AI bot interact with each other?

The ultimate goal of the project is no one will use it. All the interaction will happen among different avatars. And it is interesting what will happen, like whether there will be a trends among them or whether they will become “friends” with each other.

Can you live forever online?

People die. But with this project, their online life will be immortal. The program will keep running even if the actual person is dead. So, other people can still interact with them.


Servlet — Where the applications run

Because some of the library/frameworks are in JAVA, I need to install servlet on my server. Also I need to integrate the JAVA servlet and other parts of the sites.

Social Network Framework — The structure of the whole site

Thera are a couple of open source social network frameworks. I chose the Elgg to be my main framework. It is easy to set up and very flexible to add my own functionalities.

Social Network APIs — Where the data comes from

The data sources are different Social Network Websites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. The way to get the data is using their APIs and integrating them with my own site.

Machine Learning/Natural Language Processing — Data analyzer

With appropriate machine learning algorithm, a program can analyze people’s online behaviors and try to simulate them.

Alchemy is an open source AI engine which can be used for this project. I think it can be used to analyze and learn about the users’ behaviors but I need to do some more research to decide whether it is good for my site.

Lingpipe is an open source text processing engine/program which can do topic classification, sentence detection and logistic regression these natural language processing tasks. Through this, the site can get what the topic of users’ daily conversations or what is their interest, in a form of keywords.

Recommender System

Recommender system is an online system that recommend different contents to users based on their former behaviors, like Amazon, Dell are using these systems to send the promotion emails.

easyrec is an open source recommender engine which can be used for this project. It is in JAVA. It will recommend different contents for the users based on their online behaviors. For my site, the recommendations will be based on the result of the data analyzations.

This will work with the Lingpipe. Based on the data from


AIML is a open source project for online chat bot. It is basically a XML library which contains thousands of different sentences/pattern of natural language. When users ask a question to the AIML system, the program will search the library and find the appropriate answer to the question. And  users can train the chatbots by modifying the XML library.

AIML can be implemented by different program languages. Because eventually it needs to be integrated with the SN frameworks, PHP implementations will be a good choice. There is an open source project called Program O which works quite well.

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