Jolly Roger AI chatbot telesales
An ingenious way to handle unwanted calls using an AI chatbot has been invented. Flickr/Dave Dugdale

We all hate getting disturbed by cold callers trying to sell us things we don't want. Which is why one man has made it his mission to fight back by building an artificial-intelligence robot that can talk to the caller for you and keep them hanging on the line for as long as possible.

The Jolly Roger telephone is a chatbot that can string along pesky callers pedalling phone insurance or business loans by using a recorded human voice saying things such as 'Yes', 'Uh huh' and 'Right' at perfectly timed moments in the conversation. To make sure the cold caller continues, the clever piece of software pranks the person on the other end using tactics such as pretending to talk to his 'wife' or asking the caller to repeat what they just said, saying that he's just woken up. Thanks to a silence-detection algorithm, it's even savvy enough to know when the caller is starting to suspect they might be talking to a robot and can suddenly blurt out an off-the-wall comment, which ultimately gets them hanging on a little longer.

The system was created by Roger Anderson after he got fed up with cold callers, and as he used to work in the telecommunications industry he decided to take action. It works is by forwarding a call to the phone number of the chatbot – at the moment this is a US number – by pressing 'add call' on your mobile and forwarding the call through to Anderson's chatbot. The instructions below were posted on the site.

1. Press 'Add call'

2. Dial my robot at 214 666 4321. While you're dialling, keep chatting into your phone like you're trying to get Mr Jones ("Yeah – phone for you", "OK, he's coming hang on...", etc)

3. Press 'Add call', 'Merge call', 'Conference' or whatever would add the robot to the conversation

4. MUTE YOURSELF so your background noise doesn't affect the conversation

5. Listen to the call, and hang up when the telemarketer hangs up

Examples of the chatbot on the creator's website show it working brilliantly to fool callers, with hilarious results. The entertaining example below sees the chatbot dupe a telesales caller for almost eight minutes, saying all manner of inane things such as a bee being on his arm and that he's not had any coffee yet so wasn't listening.

The intention is to keep unwanted telemarketers on the line and to waste as much of their time as possible as payback for being disturbed, in the hope that they then remove your number from their list.