I've seen the damage misinformation about Coronavirus has done to families across the world. Thousands of people have lost their lives and many more are infected because they could not get accurate information about Covid. That was the inspiration behind this chatbot. I also wanted to get hands on experience with building an AI application with the skills I presently have. The prize money was also a good incentive for me as I am saving up for further studies.

What it does

CovidBot is a chatbot built using NLP that provides information about Covid19 to users in real time based on their questions and inputs.

How I built it

Initially, I used my local machine, node.js and ngrok(as local webserver host) to build and test the app while integrating it with the NLP. It was difficult for me getting the POST and GET requests to be successful as I was using my local PC as web server and it was my first time working on backend programming. Later, I used Glitch as a webhook to tie everything together; the NLP, Node Js environment and my Facebook messenger.

Challenges I ran into

First one was setting up a local server on my machine using node.js and getting my GET/POST requests to return back a successful message. Second one was when I was trying to integrate my webhook into my Facebook app, I didn't get that quite correctly the first time, so I ran into some errors. But thanks to helpful tips from some members of the Hackathon group, I was able to handle it. I also had challenges with getting people to test the app before it was approved. That was because I wasn't conversant with using app "Roles", but when I read the documentation on it, I was clear. Finally, having to write a privacy policy for the messenger app as part of the requirements before the app was finally approved was new to me. I took quite some time to research and come up with a pretty good one.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

I am proud I've been able to create a Facebook app for the first time, though it's just able to answer questions and give information, the challenges which I overcame while trying to tie it all together using a webhook taught me a lot about how web servers and applications really work, so I am proud to have done something in this field.

What I learned

A whole lot of things like I have already mentioned about web apps, application of AI to practical problem solving. I also learnt about some critical thinking and problem solving techniques in the process.

What's next for CovidBot

I'll keep improving it and explore other ways I can integrate much more complex abilities into it. I will also explore other ways I can build a similar chatbot for other use cases and topics applying what I have learnt.

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