SmallTalk: An intelligent autoreply bot for SMS chit-chat

May 21, 2012
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    More than half of the world has mobile phones which serve as peoples’ everyday mode of communication with their loved ones, for texts and calls, or even for exchanging flirty messages and heartaches. After a while, that routine gets boring. There are times that not a single text or call arrives on your phone, which results in your being afflicted with boredom. That’s one of the greatest issues of having a phone in your pocket. If you just receive simple texts like “How are you?”, “Hey!”, “Hi”, “What are you doing?” and make replies like “I’m OK,” “Yeah!,” “Hello,” and “I’m fine,” it gets kind of boring, too.

    It’s a good thing that one great Android developer heard our voices. Dat Pham has created an app called SmallTalk, specially made just to prevent SMS boredom.  More precisely, it is intended to make “small talk.” The SmallTalk app is a random chatting application.  It sends intelligent responses to your incoming SMS messages in just a blink of an eye but in a humorous and polite way.

    SmallTalk already comes with several pre-configured chatbots (e.g. CleverBot, JabberWacky, Spock, A.L.I.C.E., Captain Kirk, and AfroBot) and each bot has its own personality.  You can choose your chatbot from the drop-down list at the upper-left corner of the main screen.

    You can also configure SmallTalk to stop sending out automatic replies–this is the default setting.  Or, you can set the app to autoreply to everyone, to reply only to a selected bunch of contacts, or to mark contacts to be excluded from autoreplies.  This can be done by selecting the appropriate option from the drop-down list at the upper-right corner of the app’s main screen.

    When an SMS message arrives (and provided you set SmallTalk to send autoreplies to the sender), the app will immediately reply to the text message.  In your Messaging app, you will see the conversation.  Messages sent by SmallTalk always begin with “SmallTalk:” to indicate that it is the chatbot’s message.  The “SmallTalk:” text, however, is not sent along with the SMS and will not appear on the recipient’s phone.  It’s just for you to identify which sent messages are bot-created and which ones are human (i.e., yours).

    Some people find SmallTalk a handy app for dealing with small talk.  Others find it useful for avoiding having to deal directly with certain contacts (who, presumably, are bored and just want to make small talk).  If you’re a busy person and don’t have time to make small talk–or you simply are the kind of person who disdains small talk–the app can take care of that for you.

    While some people find SmallTalk a good app for such practical purposes, others simply consider it a fun app to use with friends.  We tried installing SmallTalk on two Android phones, and set each phone to autoreply to the other.  The result?  Automatic, non-stop SMS conversation between two chatbots–which was quite amusing and could be a great conversation starter.  Be mindful of your carrier’s charges for SMS messages, though.

    Go ahead and try the app. You can start with small talk and build it up into a big conversation. You can get SmallTalk for free from the Google Play Store.

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