​NTU and Google Cloud develop virtual assistant to help address freshmen queries

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has rolled out a new virtual assistant powered by Google Cloud to help some 6,000 incoming freshmen transition to university life on its smart campus. 

Named Project Lyon 2.0, the virtual assistant chatbot complements the virtual Freshmen Orientation held online, which replaces the annual Freshman Orientation programme due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Project Lyon Chatbot has now been rolled out for the new batch of students who start their term in August 2020. 

Photo courtesy: NTU
Photo courtesy: NTU

Gary Lim, Public Sector – Education Lead, Google Cloud, Southeast Asia, noted that NTU is the first education institution in Southeast Asia to use Google Cloud’s Dialogflow Mega Agent, which was launched globally this year in February.

The Dialogflow Mega Agent can process up to 20,000 intents (queries), thereby providing students with a wider variety of relevant information related to freshmen, or any other topics that Lyon 2.0 will be used for in the future.

The solution has enhanced conversational flows, allowing it to hold a conversation similar to talking with a real person. For instance, the new chatbot can address questions like “How to register for courses?” and “Can you show me the examination timetable?”. This will help drive a wider usage of the chatbot among the freshmen and other users in NTU.

Photo courtesy: NTU
Photo courtesy: NTU

It can also suggest suitable F&B options or help students navigate their way on campus, for example finding their way to their tutorial rooms or labs.

"Answering the myriad of questions that new students have can be tricky, especially in a time where physical interactions are limited,” Lim said.

Aimed at providing the newly matriculated students an easy-to-use mobile experience, the virtual assistant will help to direct them to the right resources that they need. It will also assist the university in the smooth running of onboarding activities. 

“During this challenging period where all activities are encouraged to go virtual, Project Lyon Chatbot is now a critical feature of the upcoming freshmen orientation, as part of the university’s digitalisation efforts," said Tan Aik Na, Senior Vice President (Administration), NTU Singapore. 

Together with cloud consulting partner OniGroup, NTU’s Centre for IT Services (CITS) had worked with Google Cloud to programme and "train" the new chatbot to provide a better experience, which was developed with inputs from students.

"Our students were guided and empowered to create a useful chatbot for their peers, and they also picked up valuable chatbot development skills in the process.” 

CtoI News Desk
CtoI News Desk – CtoI

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