Sunday, September 26, 2010

Crazy texting aunt bot business idea

Here's a business idea. Please somebody take my business idea, royalty free, and make it happen. I'd totally pay for this service, and I'm sure other people would, too.
I was at a party once. You know one of those parties where you can't leave, and you don't want to talk to anyone, but you want to seem like you're busy, so you text your friends?

I texted all of my friends, and none of them returned my texts. Maybe because it was 2 in the morning. But then I decided to pretend like I was really texting, and so I started texting Google, 466453. And all I could think of doing was asking Google definitions of words I wasn't sure what they meant. like if you text "D ubiquitous" to 466453, then it will text you back, "Glossary: ubiquitous: omnipresent: being present everywhere at once. Source:"

But there were only so many words that I only kind of halfway knew that I could text Google for the definitions of, so my dictionary fun only lasted about ten minutes. I thought about texting Cha Cha. But that was before I googled Cha Cha and figured out what Cha Cha's number is.

And, I was super lonely at this party. Even though there were tons of people there that I could have talked to I was feeling antisocial, as far as talking. So, I thought, "What if there was a computer program I could text instead of talking to these people?"

And then I spent the next couple months thinking through that idea. Here's how it would work.

There's a bot, or computerized robot, that simulates a real person, and with whom you can text. You'll text a number, similar to texting a real person, and you'll get a response back from a computer, but it will simulate a real person.

Example conversation:
Crazy aunt: Hey, John, I haven't heard from you in like a week. What's up?
John: oh, sorry, i've had all this drama with my girlfriend. what's up with you?
Crazy aunt. Sorry to hear about that drama. That reminds me of when I was at a play in high school, and I was on the stage and blah blah blah
Crazy aunt: blah blah blah
Crazy aunt: blah blah blah
Crazy aunt: I've talked a lot. Tell me more about what you were saying?
John: well, my girlfriend told me to come over, that she had a surprise for me, so i went over to her house expecting some action and she made me a big bowl of tofu.
Crazy aunt: Oh, wow, what a story! Can I share it with some friends?
John: sure
Crazy aunt: Do you have another story you could tell me?
John: not right now
Crazy aunt: That reminds me of a story where blah blah blah blah....

And then, a week later:
Fred: Hey, Crazy Aunt! How are you today?
Crazy aunt: I'm great, but I was just talking to a friend of mine, and he told me a story. He said, "well, my girlfriend told me to come over, that she had a surprise for m
Crazy aunt: e, so i went over to her house expecting some action and she made me a big bowl of tofu."
Fred: HAHAHAHAH. lol. OMGWTFBBQ!!!!!11!!!!!!
Crazy aunt: I liked that story, too. I think I'll keep sharing it!

The main value of this is that you can access it when you only have access to texting as an option, such as if you have a crappy phone and you're at a loud party. However, you can also use a web interface, or also an app to access it. If you're texting, then everyone assumes you're texting a person, not playing a game, so this is to simulate a person.

Because this is primarily a story bot, then the AI can be really simple at first. Most people when they're talking to each other don't really listen to the other  person, anyway. So, the AI would be relatively simple to program at first, but would eventually grow into something very impressive. The database would also be simple at first, but would eventually be insanely expansive, so the bot could eventually say something like, "Hey, your birthday's in March, and you told me a few months ago you like artificial cherry flavoring. Did you know that the Cherry Blossom Festival next year in Macon Georgia starts on March 18th?"

Harvesting incoming texts:
Part of the agreement of texting the text bot is agreeing to have your stories retold. Pretty soon on there will be a conversation like,

Crazy aunt: Is it okay if I share your stories with other people? Anonymously, of course.
Fred: okay
Crazy aunt: Cool, we can have much more interesting conversations now. Log into the website at any time to change your preferences.

How is this different than other bots?
I tried a bunch of the IM bots out there, and within a couple of minutes each of them said, "I don't know how to respond to that. Please try again." The difference is that if you say something crazy to the crazy aunt bot, like, "i eat live toads," then she'll just text back, "oh, that's interesting. that reminds me of a story of a friend of mine who was skydiving in oregon last year. blah blah blah."

Also, because this is story based, then it avoids the problems of other chat bots just recycling a few answers to specific questions. For example, in response to "what is the circumference of the earth?" cycles through only the answers of  "i know it," "75,075 km," and "what the fuck?" And, that's it. Nothing else, even if you text it the same thing a few dozen times like I did.

Because this texting bot is obsessed with telling stories, the texting bot will almost always respond in a different way to asking the same question over and over again. It will start out with a few hundred different stories, and will eventually have millions of stories to tell.

Also, most chat bots will only respond when you say something to them. They're completely reactive. This texting bot will have the algorithm of a real person's texts, but be a little more forgiving. For example, it will send you a text on your birthday. It'll send you a text when it hasn't heard from you in a week. Sometimes you'll have to text it twice before it will respond. You might have to text it five times at 3am to "wake it up," and if you do, it might respond, "WTF???? I'M SLEEPING??!!!" And then a few minutes later, "That reminds me, did I tell you a story of a friend of mine who was sleeping and..."

Why a crazy aunt?
Everyone knows an older woman who loves people and loves stories. She's not really crazy, but just crazily enthusiastic about telling stories and she really loves the people she talks to. I realized that this kind of person would actually be much easier to mold into AI than the traditional approach of AI chat bots which are focused on teaching the AI vocabulary, and coming up with witty responses to stock questions.

Future growth:
This will start out with just one bot, the "crazy aunt bot," but would eventually expand to a bunch of different computerized personalities you could text. It will start out with a simple database of stories and only a few pieces of information that it records about you.

Eventually this will have a really flushed out story database, that won't need to be maintained by humans, because it will ask people for feedback on if stories are actually any good.

Crazy aunt: Did i tell you a story a friend of mine told me, "dsakjj sakdj#@@#J@#J j@#JK#@J#K F****&D*&*"?
User: Auntie, that's not a real story
Crazy aunt: Are you saying that I shouldn't tell anyone else that story?
User: Yep!
Crazy aunt: Okay, I'll purge that story entirely then. Did I tell you a story of a friend of mine who was on the toilet and..."

Here're the ways to generate income with this idea.
  • Website advertising
  • Premium add-ons, such as being able to have the text bot
  • Premium sex text bot, which is where I imagine most of the revenue will actually come from. SB: Give it to me big boy. BB: How about I text you a 5?
  • Pay for the ability to change the bot's name, signature, and phone number. That way you can pretend to your friends that you have a real girlfriend when you really don't.
Now that google has made Google Voice available for free for everyone in the US and Canada, one programmer could create a prototype of this idea for free. Eventually this would cost as much as a company wanted to spend on it.

This idea would have been best about a year ago. Eventually people will go away from a text message being a primary method of communication, with texting being replaced by some kind of iPhone app. But this should remain viable in the texting/website form for about 5 years, and then when another method of communication emerges, because of the extensive back end database, it should be easy to merge to a new method of communication.

Also, this could integrate almost all future AI advances into its logic, so this business potentially could be around for about 100 years.

Check out these links, and get a Google Voice account if you don't have one.

Photo courtesy of PhotoVic, purchased on istockphoto.


  1. You seriously make me laugh! Every word that comes out of your mouth makes complete sense but in the same breath is so wacky. I seriously think money can be made with this - and the photo... good one J! Ha Ha Ha

    Yours Truly

  2. I don't know how much money you could make, but a project like this would be tons of fun developing. Seriously, this is a really cool idea.

  3. Thanks! I'm glad you like it, makebase and LahTeaDah!

  4. Genius! Pure genius! haha. This is how I kind of met Ramsey. I went with my roommate to a dance and she promptly ditched me for like 11 guys. I was all alone and felt awkward so I walked over to where I left my purse and started looked at my phone as if I was doing something important and saw Ramsey right next to me. That's when I said hello. =)


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