Wagbot the chatbot delivers educational advice

Community Law Wellington has launched a chatbot to provide information to parents and students about schools and education throughout New Zealand. The chatbot, dubbed ‘Wagbot’ is claimed to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to ‘learn on the job’.

Wagbot’s knowledge base is derived from the content of a book published by Community Law Wellington, Problems at School. Matthew Bartlett, who led the technical development of Wagbot, said Wagbot had been designed to inform people about their options in a conversational way.

“It’s very quick to respond, can chat to multiple people at once and you don’t need to download an app as it is freely available through Facebook Messenger,” Bartlett said.

According to Bartlett Wagbot uses machine learning algorithms to improve its understanding and usefulness. Also, he said Community Law Wellington had been using conversations with students across New Zealand to train Wagbot to better respond to issues.

“We also have access to thousands of call logs from our Student Rights phone line (0800 499 488) that when fed to Wagbot make it even smarter.”

Community Law Wellington now plans to use the technology to create a chatbot for the Community Law Manual, a 900 page book with nearly 3000 questions and answers on common legal issues.

“Wagbot is teaching us about how to tackle this next challenge” said Bartlett. “The intersect of artificial intelligence and the law is a really fascinating space and we are keen to pursue every opportunity in this area.”

Community Law Wellington said also that it was in discussions with several organisations about partnering to develop chatbot interfaces for various applications.

Geoffrey Roberts, general manager of Community Law Wellington, said: “If we can get this technology working at the scale of the Community Law Manual it will be the closest thing to a robot lawyer New Zealand has seen.”

Microsoft & Facebook are chatbot fans

Chatbots are becoming increasingly popular for customer service organisations and are getting a good rap from some very high placed industry figures.

A survey undertaken by research firm LivePerson of some 5,000 consumers from six countries found 38 percent of respondents rating their overall perception of chatbots as positive, only 11 percent reporting a negative perception and the remaining 51 percent were neutral.

The UK’s Observer newspaper reported last September Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, and Facebook’s head of messaging, David Marcus talking enthusiastically about chatbots.

“Nadella and Marcus see chatbots as an important new human/machine interface,” it said. “Both of their companies have launched tools to help developers create these bots, and between April and September, more than 30,000 were made for Facebook Messenger alone.”

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