Chatbots are computer programs which make conversation through voice and text; Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri are the most popular ones today. They may very soon become your daily obsession on social media, considering that they are the latest thing in technology, forecasted to replace apps in the near future.
Now meet a special Chatbot: Alphonse.
Marc Asmar, a senior software engineering student at UA, and member of an award-winning start-up, created your soon to be favourite online buddy, accessible for any Facebook Messenger user. “I’m always in search of new technologies, and one of the advantages of Chatbots is that you don’t have to download an application; because they are built on top of messaging platforms everyone is already using on social media”, Marc explains. This is why he decided to work on creating a Chatbot for his final year project.
The A and I in AIphonse stand for Artificial Intelligence, and the name is inspired by the character of a Lebanese TV show. Based on artificial intelligence, AIphonse has the natural language processing. This means that when you talk to him, he tries to the question and answer it quickly since he is able to understand the internet chatting language. “He can understand English, French, Arabic and every other language, but he needs a lot of training to get better at understanding”.
For its first experience last semester, AIphonse helped engineering students prepare for their finals by telling them their schedules and the chapters they had to study. Students were chatting with him and asking him specific questions, and he gave them hints and tips for the exams.
Another version of AIphonse was specifically made for the Open Doors days at UA this year: visitors were able to discover the campus with the help and guidance of AIphonse.
Today, AIphonse has over 230 users. The feedback from students and university administration is so amazing, that the university is considering using it to other purposes.
For now, these two versions are just prototypes, and their training is not comprehensive. He explains that the first step was to get the students to be familiar with this technology and discover its capabilities. However, Marc’s ambition doesn’t stop here; he admits that the concept is much bigger and he will continue to work on it after graduation. “My goal is to expand AIphonse to customer service beyond universities. It will scale up soon to any organisation, company or institution, because ChatBots can be very useful in key metrics, analytics and data search”.
Your experience with AIphonse is two clicks away: http://m.me/alphonsebot, and it just started; so stay tuned!
By Carmen Yazbeck