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We’re delighted that Robert Hoffer, the mastermind behind the world’s most popular bot experiment so far, will join as a speaker at MobileBeat 2016, our event that starts tomorrow in SF. It’s the first significant event about A.I. and conversational user interfaces.

The bot he created, SmarterChild, had 30 million users in its IM buddy list on AOL, the platform where it lived at the time. The bot accounted for 5 percent of all IM traffic, and was sending hundreds of millions of messages a day.

Hoffer recounted the tale of his SmarterChild bot for the first time a few weeks ago, in an article on VentureBeat. He’s been relatively press-shy throughout his career, and so it’s an honor that he’ll be talking extensively about his experience for the first time at MobileBeat.


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(Note that the outspoken guy at the start of the video above is Peter Levitan, who was the CEO of the company. Hoffer, who was the originator of the idea for SmarterChild, speaks for the first time 40 seconds in.)

In last week’s piece, Hoffer explained the critical factors behind a massively popular bot, and arguably the most important is personality. Many of the leading conversational user interface platforms today — Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri included — don’t have any personality, he said. That’s going to limit their popularity even if they get significant traction in other ways.

One thing he didn’t discuss in his article, but has talked about more privately, is how businesses tried to engage with SmarterChild’s users, just like Facebook has opened up its messaging app to let businesses engage with Messenger users. In one experiment, Radiohead sent 90 million messages to SmarterChild’s users, Hoffer said in a recent talk.

If you’re interested in bots today, you’ve got to check out the video above. It shows just how hyped bots were 15 years ago. Not much has changed.

Hoffer was something of a child prodigy. At an early age, he built an early chess game called Sargon, which won the first computer chess tournament held for microcomputers. It outsold Visicalc, the first spreadsheet software, which with 100,000 units sold was considered wildly popular back then. More on Hoffer’s escapades here and here.

We’ve got an awesome lineup at MobileBeat. We’ll also hear from Amazon’s speech science VP for Alexa, Rohit Prasad, who will be talking publicly for the first time.

We’re almost at capacity — fewer than 20 tickets remain for MobileBeat. If you haven’t reserved your spot along with the top tiers of tech society at MobileBeat, grab your ticket fast.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Stay abreast of the latest news on bots, messaging, and A.I. from MobileBeat 2016. Read our coverage here.

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