Soren Frantz / Photo Editor

Harrison Paletta
Equinox Staff

A Keene State computer science research team has created and continues to develop a chatbot called Owl Assist.

Computer science faculty Meena Vimal Cruz leads this team. Cruz said, “We have been working on this project for the past two years. The team has me and my computer science students Matthew Pittendreigh, Joshua Snider and Timothy Stockton.”

Cruz explains in a Zoom video more about the chatbot. She said, “Chatbot is an automated customer service care support which facilitates conversation, needed information, and gives proper direction like a real customer care person.” Cruz said, “Information and conversation is delivered by using natural language processing techniques which is a kind of artificial intelligence (AI) technique.”

Using AI technology, the chatbot can answer questions about Keene State College such as tuition cost, registration, courses offered, faculty information, contact information, the weather and much more.

Pittendreigh is a computer science and mathematics major at Keene State. According to Pittendreigh, “Owl Assist is a chatbot developed by and for Keene State College. Its primary function is as an assistant used for quickly finding information. Its secondary function is as an advertisement, representing the school’s ability and motivation to adapt to technology.”

Pittendreigh continued, “Over the course of one year, we have gathered thousands of question and answer data points and launched the first version of Owl Assist on the Google Assistant platform. You can access the chatbot right now by launching the Google Assist app, and simply saying, ‘Talk to Owl Assist.’ We are currently working on integrating Owl Assist with many of Keene State’s informational systems.”

Joshua Snider, another member of the chatbot team, showcased the bot over a video stream. Snider said, “Owl Assist can deliver answers that are quick and accurate without the need for navigating through the Keene State College website. Let’s say I’m a prospective student looking to apply to Keene State College but I don’t know how. I can just ask the virtual assistant how do I apply to Keene State College and receive a prompt reply on what applications are accepted, and a direct link to the appropriate KSC webpage.”

Snider continued with his showcase. He said, “Furthermore, if I’m having trouble with an application and I need to contact an admissions advisor, I can ask, how do I contact admissions? And it will give me the phone number and hyperlink to the admissions page on the Keene State website.”

Snider concluded the presentation talking about Owl Assist’s primary goal. Snider said, “When this Owl Assist is fully deployed, Keene State College will be the first in our state to have a virtual assistant. This will act not only as a potential attraction for new students, but also as a helpful tool in ensuring their success.

Providing virtual customer support to help not only the students, but also their family and faculty members. It at large in a very convenient way is the primary goal for this chatbot.”

For more information about the new Owl Assist Chatbot, watch the full video featuring the whole team at https://bit.ly/3mAN4ka.

 

Harrison paletta can be contacted at:
hpaletta@kscequinox.com

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