UA launches Aitana, a chatbot developed by University of Alicante researchers and students able to understand what the user is looking for and offer customised solutions
Alicante, Wednesday 10 July 2019
Aitana is the University of Alicante Siri-like app. This technology has been developed at the Polytechnic School by the Processing and Information Systems Group at the request of the Office of the Vice President for Campus Facilities and Technology. Students can already access the app through Telegram for them to be guided through the enrolment process without queues or having to wait, able to perform language analysis and understand what the user is looking for while interacting with the application.
Right now, the functionalities covered by Aitana are focused on helping with the enrolment process, letting students know about the necessary documentation, about admission marks or scholarships, as explained by Sergio Conejero and Víctor Belén, from Multitec Association, who have participated in the development of the chatbot that is already accessible in Telegram.
The idea of setting up this automated support system arises from the Office of the Vice President for Campus Facilities and Technology based on the youth’s new habits where information becomes necessary at any time and anywhere and that is what Aitana offers us. According to Rafael Muñoz, the person responsible for the project, the aim was to provide all the information related to the enrolment process and academic management at all times.
To this end, his Office contacted the Polytechnic School where they develop different lines of research through groups that work in artificial intelligence, deep learning and automatic knowledge acquisition in order to create a bot to support students with the enrolment process.
Aitana has been made real in a matter of three months thanks to the Natural Language Processing and Information Systems research group and the participation of some students of Multimedia Engineering and Biomedical Engineering.
Students define their participation in the creation of Aitana as a very rewarding learning process, much more than any class. Sergio and Victor stated that they have been able to apply knowledge to a real project and that has been them a much larger dimension of work than anyone can ever learn in a classroom.
Director of UA Polytechnic School Andrés Montoyo, also involved in the Aitana project, highlights the contribution of the students in this project as the idea was always to encourage the students’ creativity and work. Thus, upon receiving the request from the Office of the Vice President, they clearly saw that it was an opportunity for students to be an active part of the project. That is why they contacted the Polytechnic School Multitec Association association to take on the task of developing this project, and the result has been a success.
Montoyo also explained how this initiative was launched. The Office of the Vice President contacted them and after defining the project they thought that the Natural Language Processing group, from the Department of IT Languages and Systems, could be in charge of it as they are experts in textual processing, text mining and the applicability of that artificial intelligence. Therefore, they took on the challenge of making this project led by Yoan Gutiérrez.
In record time, Aitana has surpassed all the phases that have allowed it to be already available for students. The working group led by Gutiérrez has managed to get it up and running in three month’s time. The first thing they did was an exhaustive analysis of all the systems that offered bot development tools to choose the most appropriate given the requirements of the project. The next step was to choose a team of developers that was formed by four EPSA students and divided, under the supervision of Isabel Moreno, into a team specialising in technology development and another in project and content management.
The director of the Polytechnic School emphasised that the chatbot has been created in a university setting by UA researchers and with some students in their third year of the undergraduate degrees of Multimedia Engineering and Computer Engineering as developers.
Before its launch, Aitana has passed several filters as the one of the UA Information Service that has supervised that the chatbot offers the content provided by them and after that, two students assessed the app to polish details that were not identified previously, Yoan Gutiérrez stated.
The virtual assistant or chatbot is capable of interacting with users both in Catalan and Spanish, after stating the chosen language at the beginning of the conversation. At the moment, Aitana is able to solve and answer questions related to the enrolment process. However, as Rafael Muñoz said, Aitana will go further as the idea is to use it for any administrative procedure at the university and to make it available on new platforms such as Instagram, Messenger or Twitter, as well as on the web.
The team involved in this project is made up by Yoan Gutiérrez as the director of the group and Isabel Moreno as co-director, as well as the students Sergio Conejero, Víctor Belén, Mateo Limas and Nuria Salazar. The Student Information Service and the Academic Management Service have also participated in the development by providing the knowledge used by the engine to learn how to answer the questions asked by users
AITANA video presentation
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