You follow The Keeper through some large wooden doors into the hall.
“I couldn’t really avoid having a koala hall, could I?” asks The Keeper. “What with all the koala hunting that took place in the early days of Tuataria…”
You pause on the phrase ‘koala hunting’ and decide to let it go. At least there doesn’t seem to be an actual koala here. Yet.
“I still can’t believe they ended up deciding that a lovely cuddly koala could be the avatar of that sadistic bot they’ve built in Tuataria – what’s his name, Steven or something? Still, I’ve heard chlamydia can make you cranky – wouldn’t know myself, of course – so I suppose it could be appropriate.”
While The Keeper reminisces, you look around. This hall looks like it used to be a workshop of some variety, with some interesting stains still set into the floor. A couple of patched holes in the roof suggest that some moderately vigorous experiments once took place here. In the meantime, The Keeper has pulled a sheet off a large heap of technology that seems to be steaming gently.
“So, this is one of the things I’ve been working on, but I’ve never really quite managed to make it properly user-friendly.”
Given the number of dials, wheels, knobs and other gadgetry, that seems like a bit of an understatement.
“Oh, don’t worry about the dooblydoos and thingamajigs – the idea is that this is a computer you can talk to. Natural language processing, artificial intelligence, and all that. Here, let me demonstrate.”
You stand by the machine as The Keeper reaches for a microphone and clears his throat. If this thing turns out to be called Siri…
“Beep boop boop boop. Beep boop beep. Beep beep boop boop. Beep beep boop boop. Beep beep beep beep.”
What in heaven’s own name was that?!
“Sorry,” says The Keeper, as the machine whirs gently. “I haven’t quite managed to get it to understand my voice yet, so I have to speaks its language instead. But it does usually manage to come up with a response. Here…”
And in metallic tones, the computer responds: “Beep beep beep boop. Beep beep beep beep.”
“Oh,” says The Keeper, slightly startled. “Someone’s not having a good day. And when I’ve got a guest here too. Hang on, I think I need to respond. Beep boop boop beep boop. Beep boop beep boop beep. Beep boop boop. Beep boop beep. There”
The machine took less time to think about this one. “Beep beep boop boop beep. Beep boop beep. Beep boop boop beep beep.”
“Well, that was at least literal,” notes The Keeper, “if not exactly what I wanted. Let me try to show you what it can do… er… yes, let me ask that. Beep boop beep boop boop. Beep boop boop beep. Beep beep boop beep. Beep boop beep. Now, it’ll probably need a moment…”
“Beep beep boop boop. Beep. Beep boop beep boop boop. Beep boop beep.” The machine sounded deeply disgruntled, if that were possible. The Keeper, meanwhile, looked perplexed.
“Well, yes, I suppose it is, but it’s not quite what I meant. Um, look, let’s try a simpler question. Beep beep beep boop. Beep. Beep beep boop beep. Beep boop beep.”
Did the machine just sigh? It certainly sounded like a sigh. It answered nevertheless: “Beep boop boop boop. Beep. Beep beep beep boop. Beep boop beep beep.”
“Splendid!” beamed The Keeper, evidently satisfied with the response to his enquiry. “Anyway, can’t stand here nattering all day with some microchips: I’ve got other things to show you from my research.
“Why don’t you greet the computer yourself and then we’ll move on? You can just do it in ordinary English – there’s a converter here that’ll do the beeping and booping for you. Just say ‘hi’ and the computer’s name. Once you’ve done that, I’ve got something to show you over here.”
Enter the password in the form ‘hi name’, but with no space