Issue 4, 2018. August-September

   

INNOVATORS AND DISRUPTORS: IDEAS TO BRING CHANGE

Georgian entrepreneurs are pushing the country's development forward. This column is about how Georgia's best and brightest are challenging the limits of technology and the market to create the businesses that will change our lives today and shape our future. In this issue, Investor.ge's Nino Bakradze spoke with Zura Jishkariani and Sandro Asatiani about Anima Chatbots - Interactive programs (cognitive agents) with a "soul."

Nino Bakradze

Everyone who has ever used Siri or Alexa can attest to how great chatbots can be - and how frustratingly limited they can be.

Artist Zura Jishkariani and programmer Sandro Asatiani have taken those limitations head on and are creating chatbots as eloquent and erudite as a poet.

Actually, their first creation was a poet - the well-known Georgian poet Galaktion Tabidze.

Ilia State University was quick to appreciate its potential: the University ordered its own chatbot and the pair delivered Una.

"Una is full-time staff member at the University now. It became a very successful project because Una reduces the time, energy and resources the administration had to spend on answering students' questions," Asatiani said.

"That's why we think chatbots are the future of business: generally, communication by words is natural for humans and instead of clicking some images on the computer, it is more comfortable to tell someone what to do and then wait while this digital creature fulfills your request. Now technology is changing and turning to verbal communication more and more," he added.

Future of Business

When this team started working on chatbots, they were not targeting them for commercial purposes. But Jishkariani noted that the technology is a perfect fit for modern businesses because it allows them to communicate - if only they didn't sound so android.
"We very much wanted to change the behavior of chatbots and teach them how to talk to humans. Anima means the "soul" and we want to create digital creatures with a "soul." Zura is a writer and he understands how to communicate with people, how to write dialogues better and how to make characters more intelligent," says Asatiani.

From Customer Relations to Tour Guide

The startup is funded by the Agency of Innovation and Technologies in Georgia and will be available for clients by December. Currently the technology is not cheap - 10,000 lari for a custom-made chatbot - but Anima chatbots can be hired for $30 a month.

Some large companies are already interested, Asatiani and Jishkariani said.

"On our webpage, clients can choose which chatbot they want. We will name chatbots like "Giorgi, 27 years old," "Samantha, 30 years old" and each of them will have different basic knowledge. The interface will be as simple as children's drawings, so it will be equally understandable for children and for elders with basic computer skills," says Jishkariani.

In addition, the team is working on a Tbilisi chatbot that will allow people to talk to the city and ask it about the capital's history and weather as well as different activities and events planned in the city during their stay.

The chatbot will also be able to provide advice about routes and tours that are the best fit for an individual based on the user's responses to a set of questions.

"We plan to present the Tbilisi Chatbot at the Frankfurt Book Fair in the fall. We will invite people to try this chatbot, and try to sell our projects there as well," says Asatiani.