So you want a chatbot?
In Soviet Russia, InquiziBot isn't that much fun
Chatbots seem to be sprouting up in all sorts of forms. Some help you buy things, some help you figuring out what exact color will match the rest of your wardrobe, some will engage you in a narrative, some will give you legal advice and some will be like a multiple choice decision tree. Some are funny, some are sad and by most the novelty wears off really fast. They seem to work best if they either are very focused on a single subject or if they have the time to get to know you. So we have this spectrum from choice bots - and (almost) true conversational bots.
We started our search for a “home” for our new bot with the thought in mind that we wanted to have the bot integrated into a group conversation as we hadn’t seen that in the wild yet. Facebook doesn’t allow this so the biggest name in the game dropped right from the start. Whatsapp, the messenger we use the most privately, won’t allow chatbots either, so we quickly landed with Telegram - a great alternative that is embracing and pushing chatbots.
After that was settled we went for a walk, talking about what this technology can do for a person. Trying something new is more fun and engaging when the subject matter is as well. Learning through conversation is gonna be huge - having a casual convo with a bot asking you things in a language with the help of gifs, music, maps, video and basically any content you can think of, in tiny snippets, gradually getting better and the bot being smart enough to learn from you and in return getting better at teaching. That is interesting. That would be awesome, but first of all we think the technology isn't quite there yet, and also we only had a handful of days, so we decided to tackle a smaller task. A Game would meet all the criteria for this tiny little prototype that we set out to do - after all, smartphone apps started to get big with games.
We set out to do "InquiziBot", a chat bot turned Pub Quiz host, who could entertain a group of your friends, ask them trivia questions, keep track of everyone's score and to elect the winner after everybody gave their answers. The idea was simple. Sadly the actual logistics of having a group play together - not seeing each others answers, let alone the timing issue of when people play and how boring it would be to have to wait for one-another proved to be a bit too complicated for the little project we set out to do. So we decided to focus on the direct one-on-one with Inquizibot.
After finding API’s with good trivia we set everything up, Ramon focusing on making the technical aspect work and Soleil making the bot as unbot like as possible. How the bot talks and needs to be talked to. How it reacts - here we decided there can never be enough gifs to truly portray emotion. How the bot keeps the player engaged.
You can try InquiziBot by simply adding him/her/it in your telegram app.
Chatbots are a great tool to engage with users through a seemingly simple conversation. We are excited to solve user needs and problems with chatbots in the future.