Meet Beau, a reflection chatbot

Working in a small group to design a blended training I felt very annoyed. I had the feeling we were investing too much energy in defining the goals and was worried that the team was not going in the right direction. Usually I can put my finger on what we need to do, but this time I did not know exactly where it had gone wrong. I decided to use our own “Beau the reflection chatbot“. Beau asked me a number of questions such as: “What did you do in this situation?” “How did it work out?” It gave me a different insight: that I have to think more about the role of goals in a certain process and to communicate more clearly about this. You have to play with the importance of learning objectives and the level of detail, depending on the situation. In an open and social process, for example, you formulate your goal more openly. Make goals / learning objectives also the subject of conversation. Thanks to Beau!

Who the hell is Beau? Beau is the chatbot I developed together with Kirste den Hollander and Steven van Luipen,  a prototype. We wanted to see if you could use a chatbot to support reflection. And you certainly can! I am enthusiastic about the possibilities, although I also see the limitations of Beau. Beau is a scripted bot, in which no artificial intelligence is used. However, talking to specialists I learned that sometimes a scripted bot is all you need.

Beau was tested by 51 people and these are the results Our conclusions:

  • Most people are positive about the use of Beau, the tone and the language used in the conversation. But more importantly, half of them have gained a new insight through the conversation. 
  • Talking to a text chatbot instead of a person, and typing instead of talking often helps the reflection process. It gives people time to think and enables them to determine the rhythm of the conversation themselves. 
  • In the live confession the reflection of a confessor is central and the confessional taker only asks questions. That role can perfectly be played chatbot. 
We see different possibilities to use a chatbot for reflection. You can encourage people to do this on a regular basis or you can meet as a team to use a reflection bot and exchange them at regular intervals. It is important, though to take into account that a (small) group of people has a lot of resistance to reflecting with a chatbot.

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Curious about the chatbot design process?
I have learned and read a lot about the design process, including experiences and got training with IBM Watson. Do you want to learn about bots yourself and maybe even do a first exploration of possible bots? Have a look at this workshop I may facilitate for your organization. 

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