Say hello to the Botizen

Two Malaysian inventors have developed a virtual personality said to be able to interact dynamically with online customers and be used in a wide variety of Internet applications.

Velanthiran Subramaniam and Stanley Quek call the technology ‘Botizen,’ derived from the Malaysian for ‘robot’ and ‘citizen’. Their first creation is ‘Siti,’ a cyber woman possessed with all the charm of a salesperson.

‘Siti is an intelligent cyber agent that can answer user questions from a knowledge database in real-time,’ said Velanthiran, co-founder and chief business officer of VQ Interactive Sdn Bhd. ‘She can be a virtual spokesperson or cyberguide for Websites and can chat and entertain visitors.’

Siti was developed using a combination of available artificial intelligence (AI), Natural Language Processing (NLP), speech technologies and 3D-modeling software.

Velanthiran and Quek point out that their Botizen technology has several advantages over Ananova, the British virtual newscaster who provided part of the inspiration for Siti.

‘Siti offers two-way interaction and can ‘converse’ with customers the way humans do,’ said Velanthiran. ‘For example, she can help users choose a product or fill up a form or provide support services. She can also record entire conversations providing invaluable customer profile information, especially for online storefronts.’

The Botizen fields questions in spoken language, listens out for keywords and matches them against a database. It then responds accordingly in text, audio and real-time animation.

Velanthiran said the answers in the knowledge database can be improved for accuracy as it goes along. If the Botizen cannot answer customers’ questions, it alerts a live agent to intervene.

The Botizen can, say its inventors, be customised for any Website. VQ Interactive Sdn Bhd already has an inventory of other cyber-personalities for customer needs and they also plan to develop multi-lingual versions of the product.

The Botizen is browser-independent and can run on Unix, Linux, Windows and Apache-based servers.

VQ Interactive has already secured two contracts worth US$120,000, one from a French-based computer company, Xentium Computing Co, which is developing a cybermall and, the other from US-based portal player Internet-center.com Inc.

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