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A Personal Chatbot: Developing a Universal Platform

This article describes the work of a universal platform on the basis of which any person can create his/her own chatbot.

In our earlier articles we described the future, as we saw it,  – an epoch of the Internet of People (IoP) 1.0 and 2.0 as well as the progress of the Convosphere.  Now we’d like to tell about the current achievements connected with the development of the robot-assistant (chatbot).

At present we have made five separate chatbots, each of which can be a self-sufficient separate system, but we believe that their combination will give the best synergetic effect in the nearest future.

Here we present our five completed chatbots:

1. Chatbot-external memory.

2. Universal robot-companion.

3. Chatbot for conferences.

4. Chatbot-appointments organizer.

5. Smart search bot.

Now about each of them separately:

1. A chatbot-external memory

We developed an algorithm of the chatbot associative memory creation. A chatbot can memorize for you the information you need. Unlike any other memory systems, our chatbot remembers not just words or sentences, it remembers associations, synonyms, morphology, context (subject).

A set of parameters to be loaded into a memory (knowledge) element is used for memorizing. If you type to the chatbot,  “I fly tomorrow to San Jose at 7 p.m.”, ,and ask it the next day, “When is my flight today?”, it will give you the right answer.

This module saves people from the problem to remember this or that information. This chatbot can do it for you. Only don’t forget to ask it.

Another important feature is a possibility for other people to write something to your external memory. If somebody wants to recommend you something, you can offer them to write this recommendation to your external memory, so that you could use this recommendation when need be.  For example, your friends wrote to your chatbot, “Café Alexandrino is a cool family-friendly place.”   After a while you ask your chatbot, “Where to go for dinner with a family?”, and the chatbot will give you your friends’ recommendation.

The solution idea is to easily enter and keep any useful information, so that you could easily retrieve it when you need it. The chatbot-external memory can function as a single hub for storing valuable information for you.

This function will be also useful for advertising. Messages with discounts and best offers mostly come when you are not interested in buying and thus remain unused. To make an advertisement useful, it is necessary to accumulate discount offers in the external memory of the customer, so that he/she could use them when ready to go shopping, just by asking the chatbot about the best offers.

This module has also a good potential for corporative nets and corporative databases, because all valuable and useful information can be loaded into the chatbot, a robotic system with the information about everything in the corporative nеt, allowing access to any/selected user. Providing an easy access to any open information via the web or any messengers is a real way to improve business processes in many companies.

This technology is based on JSON data.

2. A universal robot-companion

A robot-companion has a great potential for people of 65+ with communication problems. It is known that some senior people lack communication so much that speak with Ok Google, Listen Siri, or even with Amazon Alexa, asking questions and listening to answers.

Unfortunately, these solutions have a serious limitation. They are not personified. It is not possible to customize them or change. They can answer questions only the way they are programmed. More than that, they are unable to adapt to your requests.

A chatbot-companion, as we see it, will become an important element of communication for senior people. Senior people will be able to communicate with it in a regular dialogue form: asking questions, listening to answers, joking, laughing, memorizing, enjoying yourselves.

One of its growth directions is Alzheimer’s disease prophylaxis. At early stages of dementia it is possible to slow the progress of the disease by way of communicating with the elderly person, making him/her remember things, answer questions, plan his/her day. We believe that our solution could help senior people get the necessary volume of information and communication to keep them mentally tuned.

The robot-companion will appeal not only to senior people but to young ones as well.

The robot can be customized and set up to one’s liking. Using it, you can get all the necessary information in one bottle, so to say. Every user can personalize it, so that to the owner’s greeting “Hi! How’r u doing?”, it will answer, “It’s like a fairytale, master.”

Using API you can set access to any information, collecting all the answers in your chatbot.

It is possible to set the weather forecast for the place where you are. Or stock prices of particular companies. You can order your horoscope from the site you trust. Or currency rates of particular currency pairs.

This all is similar to widgets, except that widgets are always open and display the information contained in them.

You can also ask your chatbot how much it will take you to get home from a certain place without opening Google maps to evaluate the road situation. The robot will tell you exactly how long it will take you.

Besides, you friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and home people will be able to communicate with your chatbot to get this or that information about your plans, etc.

This is especially valuable when you meet new people and want to get to know them better. What do they like? What music do they listen to? What are their hobbies? You can tell it all to your chatbot, and people will be able to ask your chatbot about it without bothering you.

I, for example, like classical music. My chatbot will tell you so if you ask. This will make easier the process of getting truthful information about a person.

You can share your views, philosophies, and conceptions with your chatbot.  No need to post this stuff on FB. Who will want to read long lines, when it is possible to ask particular questions and get answers to your questions?

Another problem this chatbot can solve is its function as a smart answering machine. My wife often calls me to learn when to expect me back home. The chatbot could help her if only she does not call me just to hear my voice and to chat, because she misses me.

It’s easier to tell the chatbot about your plans, than to inform everybody interested. Let them ask my chatbot when I am available or what I’m going to do soon.

Here the privacy and safety policy is very important, for your chatbot will have a vast knowledge about you.

Communication via a chatbot will save your time and the necessity to answer questions you do not feel like answering yourself.

In the future it will create a new paradigm of the Internet of People 1.0, when people will willingly communicate with chatbots. In the evolution process the concept of IoP 2.0 will emerge, when people will create their personal bots that will communicate with each other.

I have already described this conception and it’s called the search chatbot, or protocol robot.

Practically, every day we need to search for something on the Internet, to get information about this or that, to find something we are interested in, to buy services or goods, spending or rather wasting a lot of time.

For example you need to find:

  1. A free or fee-based API workable in the JSON format to select synonyms for your chatbot;
  2. A vacation retreat to rent for three persons for a weekend at the price range of 10000 rub, and not further from Moscow than 50 km, so that it would not take you longer than 2 hours to get there.
  3. An auto service not far from your home, open on weekends, where they could do alignment for Lexus GS 300.
  4. A diode laser engraver for the price within 15 000 rub. to be delivered to the office next day.

I Google searched for that information, then made orders and bookings by writing or giving phone calls, altogether spending on it about 10 hours of my time.

I am not fond of giving phone calls, and sometimes it takes too long to get answers to your email requests. A chatbot could become a good assistant in that matter. But a universal protocol is needed for the chatbot to be able to request information for the user.

Advantages as compared to the present forms and filters:

  1. A dynamic response about the presence of absence of the services or goods corresponding to the given criteria.
  2. A possibility to create one’s own criteria for selection and receipt of this or that response.
  3. A possibility to get the best offer on the market.

How it works now:

  1. A chatbot is created to automatically send out requests via Google to the given number of resources according to the key request. In other words, Google results are not so important as the bot can request relevant information on 10, 20,100 different sites.
  2. The chatbot sends out a standard request to all the resources via: email or texting.
  3. Gets responses, arranges them and presents to the owner.

How it will work soon:

  1. A new chatbot will send requests to any number of resources.
  2. A chatbot can send a request not only to a resource but immediately to the chatbot of the resource. In a word, chatbots will communicate with chatbots to get the relevant information and present it to the user.

Thus, thanks to chatbots, the user will have a full access to the information he needs.

In some cases such aggregators as Skyscanner, Booking, Expedia are good enough to present structured information with the given criteria to the user. But the absence of aggregators in other cases makes access to the necessary information much more difficult.

We believe that this kind of search bots will allow in the future making any complicated requests and finding necessary information for users. Chatbots will make their own independent selection of the information for users, thus protecting them from irrelevant data and saving their time.

The described conception has not yet been implemented, but we have started already working at the development of the universal protocol, on the basis of which bots will be able to communicate with each other.

3. A chatbot for participation in conferences

One of the functions, which could have been implemented long ago, is virtual conferences and virtual participation in regular conferences. In most cases participation in any conference requires registration. Participants receive expensive trash to be thrown away on exit of the conference hall.

But there is an alternative. The organizer of the conference makes a list of guests and uploads it to Google docs.

So when you visit the event you just enter your name or the PIN code to be registered and get your badge.

Now you have all the useful information in the chatbot: 

  • Information upgrades about the exhibition/conference.
  • Information about VIP guests arrival.
  • A general chat for the participants of the conference/exhibition.

Advantages and benefits:

  • Savings on the staff for visitors’ registration.
  • Guests register on their own.
  • No need to download and install additional applications.
  • Visitors meeting and registration online.

What is the use of the chatbot at a conference?

As it is known that most people at conferences spend 80% of their time surfing on their mobile devices, it is a good idea to give them an additional tool – an opportunity to get the necessary information via the chatbot.

What information can guests of the conference/exhibition learn via the chatbot?

  • A schedule of speeches
  • Links to the speakers’ social nets (if the speakers do not mind)
  • Links to the presentations
  • Event details: opening and closing time, directions, parking, etc.

In other words, with the help of the chatbot conference guests and organizers can get the necessary information in a dialogue format, i.e. the chatbot can serve as a “smart” answering machine. This solution can improve the quality of the conference/exhibition guest service.

Why is it better? Because users don’t need to download any applications, visit the site or register. All what is needed is to write a question in the messenger of Facebook, Twitter, Slack, Gmail, Telegram and get an answer.

This kind of bot will function for the Monage conference in San Jose, March 20-22, 2017  https://web.telegram.org/#/im?p=@Monage_bot

We believe that this kind of interface and presentation of the information in a dialogue form is a new perspective trend. This new format is available and works today.

4. A chatbot-appointments and invitations organizer

I notice that sometimes we spend too much time discussing the place, date and time when need to arrange an appointment with one or several persons.

When everything have been arranged and coordinated people send invitations to each other. With the chatbot the process will become less complicated.

A detailed description of the chatbot work is on the site:

Open source робот секретарь

The chatbot can help choose a convenient place and time.

For example, a “free period” in your busy schedule pops up suddenly (it does occur sometimes), you tell your chatbot about it, and the chatbot notifies those who seeks an appointment with you that you have a “free period” for about an hour and can meet them someplace in the center of the city.

Or another variant, when you seek an appointment with someone who interests you.   You subscribe  to his chatbot and on getting a notification of his “free period” offer  him to meet you. This so called the win win strategy (when both sides are winners) is very practical.

Privacy settings (a list of people allowed to know about your plans) are up to the user.

5. A smart search bot

Thanks to “OK Google” you can now easily receive answers to specific questions, for example: “what is a boson?”, “what is a quark?”, “the capital of Indonesia?” or “what is the weather like in Miami now?”  Google, as a rule, gives exact answers.

But this Google technology has some disadvantages:

  1. Every next question of the user looks new to Google, that is, has nothing to do with the previous one, the context of which Google does not remember.
  2. Google can’t keep up a coherent conversation in the context of the question. If you say “Interesting” to its answer about a boson, it won’t offer you to tell more about the particle.
  3. Instead of answers to some specific questions Google gives relevant links. So if you ask when the top quark was discovered, Google will give you snippets, ten per page, and you’ll have to look for the answer yourself.
  4. Google can’t summarize the information if it is necessary.

We believe that these four problems of the Google search can be solved with the help of the smart search bot on the basis of the Google API. Currently we keep working on the algorithm improving the search results. In the next version the search chatbot will use synonymic rows for the search for answers to questions. In other words, the user’s query will be supplemented with all sorts of relevant synonyms.

The relevance of synonyms will be estimated in points (will be weighted), according to which synonyms will receive certain value vectors, i.e. the combination of synonyms will be built on the basis of the context.

A group of the weighted synonyms will allow finding answers not by the words, but by the meaning.

Thus, if you write a query: “The dates of life and death of the protagonist”

The search will include also the phrase: “When the character passed away”, thanks to the synonymic row, which is now presented as a ready JSON.

A complex search model and atypical synonyms comparison will be used.at the stage of the smart bot development.

Linguists face the task of teaching the chatbot to a more complex analysis of texts, abstracting (summarizing), etc. However, Endurance believes that if there are practical enough APIs, you can create a service to give answers to users, the accuracy of which will reach 80-90%.

Plans for the future

That’s how we see the personal Endurance chatbot. By the moment, five ready-made modules have been created. Endurance is interested in attracting investments for the development of this technology, as well as for the MVP market introduction.

At the same time, we invite individual developers and research centers for cooperation to improve the chatbot work. For creation of its modules Endurance uses the Botlibre platform, which, in our opinion, is very user-friendly and ready for use, but in order to provide users with the ability to customize their chatbots, the Botlibre platform needs a serious modification.

At the moment, there are no ready-made platforms on the market to create chatbots as forks, where the customization functions would be as convenient as the settings of a mobile phone at the first start. Many platforms require knowledge of programming or good understanding of the construction logics. Our idea is to provide users with a pre-installed package, where they can change the non-essential parameters. The main task of the bot is constant learning based on communication with the user.

Written by George Fomitchev, founder of endurancerobots.com

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