The Joking Computer
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The online version of the Joking Computer is now available.

Kim Binsted


I received my BSc in Physics at McGill University (Montreal, Canada) in 1991, and went on to study Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the University of Edinburgh. There I built the earliest version of The Joking Computer – a program called JAPE (Joke Analysis and Production Engine), which generated puns such as

       “What do you call a Martian who drinks beer? An ale-ien!”.

In between the computer sessions, I found time to take part in theatrical improvisation, and to reach the national finals of a stand-up comedy competition.

After completing my PhD degree in AI, I set off round the world, spending a short while in the language technology group at Macquarie University in Sydney, and ending up in Japan. There I did research at Sony’s Computer Science Laboratories in Tokyo, on human-computer interfaces (for example, the projection of an animated face onto a mask, see photo). I also started a company, I-Chara KK, which developed social software agents for mobile phones. At a conference in Takamatsu in 1998, Graeme Ritchie and I met Annalu Waller, and the idea for the next step in computer riddles – the STANDUP project – was conceived.

Kim and the HyperMask system

Hawaii sunset

In 2002, I joined the faculty of the Information and Computer Sciences Department at the University of Hawaii, where I do research on artificial intelligence, human-computer interfaces, and human factors for space exploration. I am a co-investigator at the NASA Astrobiology Institute in Hawaii, and in 2006 I initiated the Computational Astrobiology Summer School. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. Astrobiologists address three main questions: How does life begin and evolve? Is there life elsewhere in the universe? What is the future of life on Earth and beyond?

I am very much involved with the Canadian Space Agency, including taking part (during 2007) in a four-month simulation, in the Arctic, of a Mars exploration.

As well as working on a master’s degree in Planetary Geology – attempting to characterize the deuterium-hydrogen ratio in the primitive Earth mantle – I still find time for flying, diving, kayaking, and improvisational comedy.

Kim in front of the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station
© Nadav Neuhaus

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