Thursday, August 19, 2004

Teaching computers to be nice

Working on a computer would be far less aggravating if the machines learned some manners, says a study in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies. Inspired by the Chinese saying "No one would blame a polite person," Jeng-Yi Tzeng of the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan wrote two versions of a computer-based guessing game - one polite and the other brusque. About 270 students played one of the two versions for 30 minutes and then were questioned about their experiences. The students who had played the polite version were far more likely to call it fun. In fact, 60 percent of them said the apologies - text messages such as, "We are sorry that the clues were not helpful" - added to their enjoyment. "Arrogant software rubs people up the wrong way," Microsoft scientist Eric Horvitz tells New Scientist, "just like an arrogant person would."

(I just want my computer to stop scolding me for not shutting down properly when it freezes up!)

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