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Cardiff University Develops Virtual Assistant Dubbed Sherlock

By BBC News

October 7, 2015

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Simple Human Experiment Regarding Locally Observed Collective Knowledge (Sherlock), a virtual assistant developed at Cardiff University, recently had its first public trial at the BBC's Make It Digital event.

The researchers say Sherlock communicates in a human-like way, using controlled natural-language technology developed by IBM. The tool answers questions as well as asking them to build up its knowledge base. The question-and-answer process helps ensure the software and user "understand each other," says project leader and Cardiff professor Alun Preece.

Sherlock acted as a quizmaster, answering questions about BBC television shows, during the event.

Although it is still just a research project, Sherlock has been tested in multiple scenarios, including as a tool for emergency services and as an information app at a festival.

Preece says the technology also could serve as a smart home assistant. "In a home that has a smart thermostat and devices that can detect if a window is open, a user might say to Sherlock 'I'm cold' and it would offer alternatives, such as 'I can close the window or turn the heating up'," he notes.

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