Badger Bot has entered the chat

Student Reporter

Amarillo College has its own artificial intelligence (AI) called Badger Bot which, judging by its intelligence, may or may not be controlled by an actual badger.

Badger Bot is an AI programed onto the Amarillo College website to answer students’ questions with responses to questions such as, “What are the hours of operation for the admissions office?” or, “Who do I call to talk about the clubs on campus?” to make AC more easily accessible.

“We are constantly working to find ways to meet students where they are — and we know that students don’t always have questions only during business hours and we wanted to find a way to be super responsive and timely no matter when a question is asked,” Sadie Newsome, AC’s media director, said.

The problem with the Badger Bot is, while it can answer some questions, it fails to respond to some general questions that a student may ask. “Where do I find the communications department?” and “Is there a place where I can get help for math?” are just two questions tested to see what it is capable of answering.

“Sorry, I’m not sure what you are trying to ask me. Could you try rephrasing your question, and I’ll do my best to try to answer or ask to speak to a human,” Badger Bot said. This comment is the most common statement used by Badger Bot, which led to the working theory that Badger Bot may be controlled by an actual badger.

This response may prompt questions about whether AC is realizing the benefits of investing in artificial intelligence. How much does it cost to have a badger operate a complex AI?

“The Badger Bot is part of a larger solution that is providing multiple services and solutions for several departments,” Maria Juarez, director of enrollment services, said. “It will help us to serve more students during extended times without increasing personnel and for that reason it is priceless, but the actual price is approximately $15,000 per year.”

Juarez said the Bot is already improving communication between AC and potential students. “We have always had a chat feature to allow students to speak to a live agent, but we were limited in the number of students we could serve at once. This was particularly challenging during peak times when all traffic goes up but number of personnel available on chat does not. The Badger Bot will be able to address many of the chats without ever involving a live agent. This has three important benefits. First, it reduces the amount of wait time for many students by providing answers in real time for common, simple questions; second, we can focus our staff on those more complicated questions; lastly we expect to reduce the number of lost opportunities to serve students during high traffic times,” Juarez said.

AC officials also noted that, like any technology, Badger Bot will improve over time. “So far, we have received a great reaction from students, faculty and staff. On top of that, this is an advanced AI technology that will learn and improve over time — so it will continue to get even better,” Newsome said.

So far, it appears there is room for improvement. “The Ranger” asked Badger Bot two final questions: “Are you a real badger?” and “Will it continue to improve to help AC?”

“Sorry, I’m not sure what you are trying to ask me. Could you try rephrasing your question, and I’ll do my best to try to answer or ask to speak to a human,” Badger Bot said.

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