We wanted to build a conversational chatbot - Dara (or “thread” in the Indic language Kannada) - that asks a series of questions to artists and then suggests potential creative collaborators. In particular, we know from experience that emerging market artists can often have their careers leapfrog ahead when they collaborate with international artists and institutions, and yet most aspiring Indian creatives lack the social connections or capital to work creatives abroad.
Dara is a friendly, human way to enable connections among international and Indian artists, highlighting key interests, areas and persons for potential collaboration that artists might not have realized existed. The problem we hope to solve is that of access and knowledge of the network of available resources; artists are often unaware of potential collaborators on another continent, even if their respective work is very similar.
Dara is hosted on its own site - link as well as a dedicated facebook page - link. When artists start a conversation with the bot, the bot guides them through a series of questions, learning about the user and then suggesting potential collaborators.
If successful and popular, this project will also have the effect of creating one of the most authoritative and useful directories of artists operating in India, the UK and hopefully worldwide. We've partnered with the British Council to help drive adoption of Dara through their partner cultural institutions; we hope to include other geographies and countries with time as well.
What it does
Dara asks creatives a series of questions about their practice, allows them to describe their projects and even take a BIG 5 personality test to describe themselves to other creatives. She then lets creatives search for other creatives and opportunities in other countries and connect to them.
How I built it
Dara is built on top of the Microsoft Bot Framework and then connects to a web control and Facebook Messenger. It leverages the LUIS language processing engine and Azure search features as well. It's primarily a Node backend.
Challenges I ran into
Support facebook and non-facebook chats in the same code base Creating NLP models to describe all the ways that creatives describe themselves
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
Dara has a particular personality that we built in conjunction with a Bangalore playwright. She has a particular aesthetic, character design and backstory as well.
What I learned
Chatbots are fun. Artists approach a bot differently than a person or webform, like it when it's funny and expect it to have an attitude and fail gracefully.
What's next for Dara - a Creative ConnectBot
Launching Dara with our cultural partners and ultimately pushing the tool across creatives worldwide.