Several years ago, when I ran The Environment Site, we had a feature on our discussion forum called eCoBoT. It was a relatively simple AI member of the forum that would reply to any posts made to it by other members. It was a fairly simple logic engine behind it, with posts made by matching the input with a relevant response. So if someone asked it whether climate change was real, it would get a suitable response.
Of course, when a question was posed outside it’s knowledge base, it would have to fall back on a set of standard responses, such as “you’ll have to ask the Adi about that”, or “good question, what do you think?”, or a particular favourite “I like milk”. The feature was good fun, and pretty popular amongst the members, but I don’t think many would suggest it had uses beyond a fun distraction for a few minutes.
So it’s interesting to see a new service that is taking a similar kind of approach to increasing political engagement amongst young people. Rather than asking eCoBoT your question however, this time you ask a service called Amy.
It’s a project that was forged out of a movement called Tell Me About Politics, which aims to improve interest and engagement in politics amongst the young. Amy is an AI engine that sits behind a text messaging service. Kids can text in their questions to her, and hopefully get an accurate and helpful response in return.
The service is designed to mimic popular services such as WhatsApp, and Amy is able to call upon images, videos and maybe even some interactive content to support its answer. For instance, if a youngster asks her what is the difference between each main party, then Amy might return a short quiz to help the youngster understand which party best reflects their own views.
It’s unclear at this stage how she will respond to questions that they have not bargained for, or indeed whether she likes milk, but I’m sure that it will evolve over time. It’s currently in a prototype stage having been tested among a small group of young folks.
They’re currently trying to raise some additional cash via Crowdfunder, which will be used to improve the logic engine and enable them to add some features, such as being able to contact their local MP. The campaign itself runs until the end of this week, so if it’s something you like the sound of, head on over to Crowdfunder and pledge your support.
You can check out more about the project via the video below.