John Cartan says:
The U.S. Department of Defense has a $2.3 billion program, Small Business Innovation Research, that comes up with projects to fund. Idea OSD09-H03? Develop an AI that fools young children into thinking they are talking to Daddy or Mommy when Daddy or Mommy are off on their 3rd deployment to Iraq and can't come to the webcam.
"The child should be able to have a simulated conversation with a parent about generic, everyday topics. For instance, a child may get a response from saying "I love you", or "I miss you", or "Good night mommy/daddy." … The application should incorporate an AI that allows for flexibility in language comprehension to give the illusion of a natural (but simple) interaction."
The solicitation includes a hefty shopping cart of "boys with toys" action: Voice-recognition and voice-interaction are required along with "Advanced" Multi-media simulation using video footage or high-resolution 3-D rendering.
Not covered: counseling fees after Timmy finds out he's been saying "I love you, Dad" to a robot.