A robot has debated publicly with humans for the first time and performed so well, the contest was declared to be a draw. IBM’s Project Debater is a 6 foot tall black panel with an animated blue ‘mouth’ and has access to a vast database containing hundreds of millions of articles and research papers. It uses speech recognition to analyse an opponent’s arguments and then draws on its database to provide a reply.

On a stage in San Francisco this week, it took part in a debate with a prize winning debater on the merits of subsidised space travel and succeeded in persuading 20% of the people in the audience to change their minds. Arvind Krishna of IBM said it had pushed the boundaries of artificial intelligence in a way that Google’s game-playing AI hadn’t. Nearer to home, Samsung have announced that they will open an artificial intelligence research lab in Cambridge to teach computers to recognise human emotions and improve the way they interact with us. So. It won’t be long before you not only lose your argument to a computer but it will feel sorry for you at the same time.

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