Inspiration

I like to hang out in hip coffee shops where the vibe is just perfect. I work there and meet friends. When I travel to other cities I like to check out the cool places there, so I created a venue recommendation service, that can discover new places worldwide.

Also, I love cats. And so I decided to use a cat as the character to chat with because I think every single cat owner would love to actually talk to their cat! Also, people tend to be uncomfortable when they cannot distinguish whether they are chatting with a person or a computer program. So, I chose Mica as the perfect dialog partner. Plus, she purrs!

What it does

Mica, the Hipster Cat Chat Bot is a venue recommendation bot. Send a location as Facebook Messenger attachment or just tell a city name e.g. “Vienna” and Mica shows you a selection of the best restaurants or coffee shops close by.

Mica, the Hipster Cat Bot scans a variety of international data sources (Foursquare, Yelp, TripAdvisor) and presents the best results. She is an interactive chatbot that allows the user to communicate in a natural fashion via natural language.

Test her with:

  • Show me a coworkingspace in Vienna!
  • Where can I drink coffee?

How I built it

Java backend using the Messenger API. To enhance user experience we use AI (natural language understanding and processing, machine learning) to respond to requests accordingly.

Challenges I ran into

The external APIs of messenging platforms change rapidly or are not very well documented. That’s why you have to keep an eye open on that. When you program a service that uses external APIs develop it fails-save and error-transparent.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

My cat-NLP! The feedback from the users is generally very positive and especially the cat bot receives a lot of emotional and happy messages.

Language and the intention behind it are generally complicated. Additionally conversations with different target groups have different outcomes although they speak the same language. A conversation with a 16 year old American teenager differs from one with a 48 year old adult from China. Although both users might want the same. The challenge for the bot is to deliver to both target groups a great user experience and make them happy.

What I learned

We currently invest a lot in the personality and character of our chatbot. Mica is a cute cat, that like funny cat pics and has a lot of easter eggs implemented - in contrast to other bots, that concentrate too much on their number one use case. Conversation and entertainment is super important for chatbots.

The personality of a bot is the key to attracting users and keeping them coming back. It’s the secret sauce! Otherwise, you could just use a website, an app, a hotline or widget. People come back because of the entertainment factor.

What's next for Mica, the Hipster Cat Bot

Port to other platforms, especially voice such as Alexa

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