BotCon 2017

One of the privileges I had while working on a chatbot was to go to BotCon this year. BotCon 2017 was held at Workshop 17 on Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront and it has an awesome view of Table Mountain.

So what is BotCon all about? It is the future of human-computer integration. Chatbots. Talking to a computer using natural language. Artificial intelligence and machine learning. These are all very exciting topics. Amongst the audience were some of the weirdest people i’ve ever seen, but I like it. It feels like everyone there fits into Retro’s vibe which is great.

The conference was kicked off by Martin Raison, a research engineer at Facebook AI Research in Paris.Three Retro people also did exciting talks about their work. Riana Smit & Francois Scheffer’s topic was “Does your business need a Chatbot?”, while Hein Oldewage had a talk about how he tried to authenticate people by the way they chat. Rudolph Jacobs explained to us how he made a Chatbot using Botpress that talked to IMDb.

Hein Oldewage – How to authenticate on the way you chat:

This is really fascinating, not only tech wise but also as a detective story as Hein explained that he is trying to find someone who sort of completely vanished off of the face of the earth. Hein tried to find an anonymous user called 36055512 on Reddit by using neural networks to identify if the same person has another account on Reddit. Identifying a person this way can be very useful as you can use this technique to identify for example recruiters for terrorist organizations or persons who do online bullying as people sometimes use a throwaway account for things like this.

He used 2000 users’ comments to train his neural network to identify users. Once the LSTM (long-short term memory) has extracted the characteristics from a comment a deep neural network then decides if two comments came from the same person.

Hein got a 78.2% accuracy on identifying users. He explained that this is good but not nearly as good as it should be.

Rudolph Jacobs – Talking to IMDb using Botpress:

Rudolph used Botpress, described by its creators as the WordPress of bots, to create his chatbot. He demoed his bot on Facebook Messenger, showing how easy it is to connect a Botpress created bot to this chat platform. The combination of the chatbot using natural language processing and API calls to the IMDb servers made for a new and exciting tool to search for information on movies.

Other highlights:

The Head of Messenger Platform Partnerships from Facebook Messenger, Angelique Kamara, that talked to us about the future of the Facebook Messenger Platform. Frans Cronje, the managing director and co-founder of Data Prophet in Cape Town showed us some exciting AI technologies they have developed. He also demoed a bot they created that you can chat to via Whatsapp.

Fortunately for everyone that missed BotCon this year, it was recorded and will be available on Youtube soon.

Table Mountain

The view from Workshop 17

Night out

In Retro spirit the night before was captioned as #BeerCon2017