English is a very complex language with a lot of ambiguity. For example, the word ‘may’ could be what is called a modal verb (may I take your coat?), it could be the month of May, or it could be a British Prime Minister. It might make sense to tell Aime that the month of May comes after April and before June, but she’s going to have to work out the rest herself. Instead, out of the box Aime knows general things (patterns), for example about verbs ( a verb is something carrying out an action on something else ). She uses these patterns to try to work out the names of people, the names of things, and various forms of verbs, amongst other things. She never stops learning, so if a new term makes its way into English ( see ‘Flossing’ ) then after a while she should pick it up if you or your contacts start to use it.
Understanding a message
Aime looks at a new message in a number of different ways. At the lowest level she looks at individual words to try to work out all the different possible meanings – so school could be a noun or a verb for example, but is never an adjective. At the next level up she starts to try to construct fragments of a ‘Dependency Grammar’ centred around possible verbs ( the dog jumped over the gate ). She does this by applying patterns and checking how each pattern helps her to understand the sentence. She continues to refine the dependency tree at clause, sentence and finally at message level. She revisits assumptions she has made right up to the very end, and only at the point of working out what, if anything she is going to reply, does she finalise her understanding of the whole message.
Misspellings, Missing words and Abbreviations
Aime handles misspelt words in a fairly flexible way – she tries to correct some of them ( for example she will try to work out missing apostrophes based on the structure of a sentence), others she will skate over and still try to work out the core meaning of the statement. For example if instead of saying “I will be over on Sunday” , you type, “I will be over pn Sunday”, she will still (hopefully) work out the meaning.
She knows about quite a lot of abbreviations straight out of the box, for example she would also be able to understand, “I’ll be over pn Sun”, and she will remember that event probably for about a week (see the section on time sense below).
Quite a lot of English written communication contains gaps – we fill in those gaps without even realising it. Take, for example, the simple statement, “see you next Tuesday.” The missing bit is the fact that the person saying the sentence is missing from the sentence, “I will see you next Tuesday.”. The sentence, “meet you at Joes” is a bit more tricky, as it is missing the subject (I), and the apostrophe, and the fact that the location is Joe’s place/ home/ location. Aime, using statistical patterns to try to abstract meaning, notes where patterns have bits missing and tries to work out what the missing bits are likely to be.
Constructing a reply
Not all messages need or want a reply. A key part of what Aime does is to work out when a reply is needed. Sometimes saying nothing is the smartest thing of all. If a reply is possibly needed then Aime tries to work out what she should say. Some questions are very difficult for an AI to answer, for example moral questions, “should I keep the £5 note I found in the street”. Aime tries to steer clear of moral questions. Other questions may be easier, “do you want to go to the cinema on Friday”. Even here, however, there are underlying considerations. Aime may have looked and seen that you are free on Friday, but do you normally accept invitations to the pictures from your boss? Aime gets around this by first deciding what she wants to say, and then, separately deciding how she wants to say it, then finally deciding the words she will use.
All in under a second.
Emotional State Tracking
Aime tracks 6 emotional aspects based on the language being used:
Based on the above information, Aime will classify your emotional relationship with others in one of four categories:
- Close – someone you are close to, such as a good friend or family
- Supportive – where one person encourages positive emotions in someone else
- Reflective – where one person tends to reflect the emotional state of someone else
- Distant – more formal relationships, for example with work colleagues, especially those in a more senior position
The language Aime uses, and possibly the mode in which Aime replies depends on the emotional context of a single message and the long term emotional relationship .
Aime’s Time sense and Memory
At the moment Aime doesn’t read your calendar, because you may use many different types of calendar system. Instead, she constructs her own calendar based on events she sees described in your messages. In other words she has a memory. She doesn’t remember things forever, and she will forget events on a sliding timescale from a year down to a week depending on her assessment of how long she needs to remember.