Desktop Companions & Assistants


Tips and Suggestions for using the Ultra Hal Program.

First thing to mention is that you must already have MS Agent Technologies properly installed and functioning on your system in order to use DesktopMates characters with the Ultra Hal Artificial Intelligence program. Ultra Hal doesn't automatically come with or install MS Agent technologies for you. The easiest way to do this is by first going to our new user start up page and follow the steps there and it's also recommended that you install the CyberBuddy program from the start up page as well because CyberBuddy is strictly an MS Agent program which will make it easier to determine if all the required MS Agent technology components are properly installed and functioning on your system. Once you have your DesktopMates or any other MS Agent characters that you may have installed properly functioning with CyberBuddy then Ultra Hal will also recognize the MS Agent characters and utilize the MS Agent technologies you have installed as well.

Important Note Regarding Voices
When selecting voices for your DesktopMates character in Ultra Hal you must select and use the SAPI 4 voices (the ones you used with CyberBuddy), the SAPI 5 voices that are often used with Hal's default characters do not have Lip Sync functionality, only SAPI 4 voices are MS Agent compliant and have lip sync qualities. If you attempt to use an SAPI 5 voice with your DesktopMates character it will technically still work and you will still hear the voice but the character's mouth will not move.

Recommended Minimum System Requirements.

  • Pentium III or higher
  • 1.0 Ghz or higher of CPU speed (imperative if using speech recognition version).
  • 256 MB or more of ram.
  • Quality Sound card.
  • Quality Video card with built in ram.
  • High Quality headset microphone (if using the speech recognition version).

    NOTE: The on-board or integrated video & sound devices that come in most of the off the shelf or store bought computer packages are NOT usually of very high quality, and may not be adequate enough to properly run this technology as well as many of the high end games and may require that you upgrade. Click the "Do I Need To Upgrade?" button for more info.

    We can't stress enough how important the overall condition of a user's system is in to effectively install and run high end programs such as these. We occasionally hear from people having problems getting CyberBuddy or Ultra Hal as well as many other good programs properly installed and working, and a few of them just land up writing them off as being crap programs, which just isn't true and more times than not it's a simple solution that can be resolved with a bit of patience by the user to take the time to carefully read & follow the instructions that comes with the programs as well as research the extensive online help offered through links on our site. Another very common fault is the user's computer isn't setup or functioning properly which is often caused from poor general maintenance, corrupt system files or even viruses, worms or spyware. We've come across computers in such a mess and poor physical condition it's amazing they are capable of running any programs at all. So if you should happen to be one of the few that experience problems installing or running these programs and have carefully read all the help resources that are available, before you write these cool programs off make sure your system is functioning properly and contains no viruses, worms or spyware and is also defragged on a semi regular basis.

    Ultra Hal Issues
    Some systems have problems with Hal being loaded at startup which can cause Improper Shut Down error messages and various other issues. We actually recommend that you don't have Hal auto start during startup. To change the setting on how Ultra Hal starts up, open Hal's options and select the "Startup" tab then select "I want Hal to start like a normal program from the start menu. Hal will not be accessed from the system tray but rather from a window that appears".

    Once you have done this it is recommended that you locate your start up folders or folders and manually delete the Hal shortcut (incase it still exists).
    To do this right-click the button and click "Explore" and/or "Explore All Users".

    If you are getting other error messages or Hal no longer seems to be working properly. Try running the Ultra Hal install setup again and choose the "Repair Option", this can fix a multitude of problems.

    Loading a Character with Ultra Hal.
    Start your "Ultra Hal" program with the "Hal" short cut on your desktop and then click on the "Hal" Icon in your task bar system tray to bring up Ultra Hal's main window then click on the "Menu" tab at the top then select "General Options" then click the "Character" tab and you will see a drop down list containing the characters you have installed, select the character you want to use and then click the "Speech" tab and select the speech engine you want to use and tweak the settings until you get the voice the way you like it and then click "Apply" then 'OK" and you should be set to use the character you have chosen with Ultra Hal.

    Adjusting and setting the character's voice in Ultra Hal.
    All DesktopMates characters are pre-programmed to use the British English speech engines by default because we feel these are the most natural true voices. Whenever you start the Hal program (or CyberBuddy) and select a DesktopMates character, the default British voice will automatically take effect as long as you have the British speech engine installed. Adjusting the voice settings such as pitch and speed etc. are a bit different in Hal than CyberBuddy, bring up Hal and click the "Menu" button at the top and select "General Options" and a window will pop up, select the "Speech" tab in this window and if you already have a DesktopMates character selected and the British speech engine installed the British voice will be highlighted in the voice selection window. Now click the "Advanced" button and another window will appear to adjust the voice settings. You'll probably notice the pitch and rate buttons won't slide or move, NO your Ultra program is not broken, to use these functions you need to select and use "User Defined" from the "Voice characteristics" window above. Type or Copy and Paste some text in the "Test" window and tweek the settings until you get the voice the way you like it. Another very nice feature of Ultra Hal is the "Silence Between Sentences" selections, this sets the pause between sentences when the character is speaking or reading multiple sentences so the character doesn't ramble through it.

    Running Ultra Hal and CyberBuddy Simultaneously.
    Ultra Hal & CyberBuddy makes use of the DesktopMates characters in different ways. Ultra Hal's primary function is to allow the user to openly chat with their DesktopMates character but doesn't make full random use of the characters animations and sound effects in the same manner as CyberBuddy does. Many users have been able to successfully run Ultra Hal & CyberBuddy simultaneously together sharing the same character.
    NOTE: Ultra Hal & CyberBuddy were not technically designed to function together simultaneously and success will depend highly on your system. Doing this may also result in some minor conflicts between the two programs, which could even cause one or both of the programs to crash, or the character may cease to react or function properly, none of which causes any permanent damage to the programs, it will just result in having to restart the programs again and possibly considering to run and utilize only one program at a time.

    Chatting with your DesktopMates character.
    In the begining when you are having conversations with your character using the Ultra Hal program you may find some of the responses you get will seem irrelavent and often may not even make much sense regarding the nature of your question or the topic of your conversation. But don't get too frustrated and give it time because the more you converse with your character the more it will learn from you and will eventually become even more intelligent. This technology is still in the early growth stages and has a ways to go yet before it totally has the intelligent response capablities of a human and by supporting the efforts of this technology your also supporting future growth and advancements that will one day be part of our everyday life.

    Click the "Teaching Hal" button for a tutorial on the basics of using and teaching Hal through conversation.