A Brief Biography of Richard Wallace: The Mind Behind ALICE

Last Updated on December 8, 2020 by Sean B

The history of AI is filled with fascinating inventions, and the minds behind those inventions are equally enchanting. The field of AI has been continuously revolutionized for decades, and many milestones have been achieved by teams of developers that no one had thought could be made possible.

In this blog, we will focus on the life and career of a pioneer behind a ground-breaking milestone in the field of Artificial Intelligence, ALICE (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity). That pioneer is no other than Richard Wallace. Richard Wallace was the developer of AIML and the creator or botmaster for ALICE.

Let’s discuss the aspects of Dr. Richard Wallace’s life briefly and how he came to be known as the mind behind ALICE. Read on!

Early Life And Studies

Richard Wallace was born in Portland, Maine in 1960 on the 1st of January. Richard Wallace received his Ph.D. in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University in 1989.

Career In AI

Dr. Richard Wallace started working on AIML (Artificial Intelligence Markup Language) and ALICE between 1995 and 2002. Let’s discuss both of Richard’s creations in detail.

Dr. Richard Wallace standing in front of the Mona Lisa.

Development of AIML

AIML or Artificial Intelligence Markup language is a dialect for XML (Extensible Markup Language) and is used for creating natural language software agents. Richard Wallace developed this XML dialect along with a free software community between 1995 and 2002.

Richard Wallace released AIML in 2001, on the 16th of July. The AIML language acted as a basis to develop an extended version of the ELIZA chatbot, ALICE. AIML was released under the General public license, and AIML interpreters have been given free permits to use AIML.

Using AIML, many people have created bots similar to the ALICE bot-based upon the original implementation and knowledge base of AIML used in the ALICE bot. The context of the discussions about AIMl language has been philosophical as this language compels developers to ask,” What is consciousness”?

Since the language acted as a basis to develop intelligent bots such as ALICE, the environment around the language prompts developers to explore human consciousness’s mysteries now and then.

AIML language today is still used by developers to develop natural language processing bots. The language is used in popular bots such as Mitsuku from pandora bots, which also won the Loebner Prize award.

The latest version of AIML (2.1 Version) was released on the 9th of March 2018. The language is available open-source, and anyone with some necessary skills to use AIML can benefit from the resources to build his bot.

Development of the ALICE Chatbot

Richard Wallace began his work on ALICE in 1995. His ground-breaking project attracted the attention of around 500 contributors from all over the world. ALICE is a natural language processing bot that was developed using AIML.

Alice converses with a human agent by employing heuristic patterns that match the human input rules. ALICE was inspired by ELIZA, the world’s first known chatbot created in the MIT Artificial Intelligence laboratory by one of the founding fathers of AI, Joseph Weizenbaum.

ALICE was supposed to be a developed version of ELIZA. The ALICE code is available as open-source. The AIML source of the bot is available on Google code and the GitHub account of Richard Wallace.

Inspiration for Alice Chatbot

The inspiring concept behind the creation of ALICE for Richard Wallace was the concept of minimalism. Even though back in 1991, Richard Wallace’s interests were tied to robotics and computer vision, as the Department of Defense-funded his work!

Richard Wallace and his colleagues would then read about the first-ever Loebner Prize award show held back then. Richard noticed that even though no robot could pass the Turing test, the most human-like ones were based on ELIZA.

Richard Wallace was struck by the idea to merge ELIZA’s simple natural language processing with his thoughts about robotic minimalism that could outperform the complex natural language processing systems. Thus the concept of ALICE was born.

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The Birth of ALICE

Richard Wallace’s ideas about the ALICE chatbot remained dormant as, at that time, the bulk of Richard Wallace’s work was focused on robotics and computer vision. Richard Wallace was struggling to carry out his duties as a professor at NYU and Lehigh Universities.

Richard recalls that ALICE was born out of his frustration with the work he was doing back then, as much of his work was merely a mechanistic response to frequently asked questions.

In 1995, Richard Wallace received two forms in his mailbox. They were progress reports needed by two different divisions of the University. The forms were required to be written by a typewriter, and several hours of work would have been required to type them.

Richard Wallace realized that an ELIZA-like chatbot would easily be able to fill out those forms. So, he dropped those forms and began working on the ALICE chatbot. Soon he was fired as a professor from the University. However, he was able to launch his program ALICE in 1995.

ALICE in Popular Culture

Besides frequently recurring as a notable point of discussion in the academic spheres, the ALICE bot has also made numerous popular culture appearances. The American Filmmaker Spike Jonze recalls ALICE as the inspiration for his award-winning academy film “Her” in an interview with “The New Yorker.”

The movie revolves around a human who falls in love with a chatbot. Spike said that the ALICE chatbot’s friendly nature inspired his character, Samantha, in the movie, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.

Entry into the Loebner Prize Awards

The Loebner Prize is an annual award show first launched in 1990 by an American inventor, Hugh Loebner. It has been organized by AISB at Bletchley Park. The Prize show works by using a version of a Turing Test, first proposed by Alan Turing.

During the ALICE chatbot, the award show worked by having a human participant and an AI participant hold a conversation with judges, and the role of the judge was to find out who the AI is and who the human is.

The AI program, which was the most successful in tricking the judge into thinking that the bot he is talking to is a human, would be awarded as the winner. The ALICE chatbot has won this Loebner Prize competition three times.

First in 2000, then in 2001, and then in 2004! Due to this feat, ALICE is considered one of the strongest bots and can be listed among the most anthropomorphic bots. ALICE is available on the Pandorabots website, and anyone can talk to ALICE by typing questions in the message box.

Collaboration with Franz, Inc, And Birth Of Pandorabots

In 2002, Richard Wallace collaborated with Franz, an early innovator in Artificial Intelligence, and as a result, Pandorabots was formed. Pandorabots
is an Artificial Intelligence platform that offers web services for running and deploying chatbots.

As of May 2019, around 250,000+ developers have used the platform to develop around 300,000+ chatbots. Pandorabots support AIML language and have made portions of their code free and easily accessible to developers.

Pandorabots platform is considered one of the oldest and largest chatbot hosting services in the world. Clients can quickly develop intelligent chatbots and virtual agents that can hold a conversation with a human agent via text or voice chats.

The notable chatbots of Pandorabots include ALICE and Mitsuku, a five-time Loebner prize winner. After starting work with Pandorabots, inc, Richard Wallace became the chief Science Officer there.

The Mitsuku chatbot, also known as Kuki/


Mitsuku, who has won the Loebner Prize a record five times, is one of the most popular bots of Pandorabots platform alongside ALICE. Mitsuku contains all the files of ALICE along with recent additions and developments from user-generated conversations.

Mitsuku has also been created using AIML language and is considered one of the world’s most human-like AI programs. A limited number of features of the Mitsuku bot is available for free on Pandorabots website.

Richard Wallace’s Views on Artificial Intelligence

Richard Wallace calls the field of AI “All about Politics.” He also considers academia to suffer from the same affliction. He laments at the harsh reality that scientific projects receive very poor funding when compared to the other departments. He says that science is merely used for political purposes in modern times.

He describes the replacement of scientific truth with political truths as the main items in the academic agendas. Richard Wallace says that now people are more comfortable wearing suits and ties and holding corporate meetings rather than spending their time researching computer science wearing lab coats.

This is especially concerning to Richard Wallace since he recounts his ability to bear the abusive conversation with a bot as a key factor in developing the ALICE bot.

In Closing

Dr. Richard Wallace will forever be known as the pioneer behind AIML and ALICE bot. His contributions to Artificial Intelligence are a milestone for computer science. Richard Wallace founded the ALICE Artificial Intelligence Foundation, and his work has appeared in the New York Times, WIRED, CNN, ZDTV, and many foreign-language publications.

Did you learn something new with today’s blog?
Let us know in the comments section below.

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