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Plain sailing with AI-powered chatbot for Singapore sailors

 

The Singapore Sailing Federation is claiming a world first with the launch of an artificial intelligence-powered sailing chatbot to deliver real-time wind and weather readings to regatta participants at Singapore’s 2018 national sailing championship.

Sammy the Sailing Bot (“Sammy”) is available on Facebook Messenger and gives youth sailors and their parents real-time readings from the weather station at the National Sailing Centre (1500 East Coast Parkway) via data.gov.sg’s API.

The chatbot was built by the Federation’s 19-year-old intern, Samantha Yom. A sailor herself, Yom became Singapore’s first Youth Olympic Games gold medallist when she took the Girls’ Byte CII title at the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympic Games.

The Singapore five-day regatta is the largest multi-class regatta on the local sailing calendar, with 269 youth sailors from six countries competing.

During the championship, 273 chatbot users exchanged over 23,000 messages with Sammy, clocking over 153,000 seconds (42 hours) of chat time.

“Wind conditions have a big impact on the quality of racing during a regatta. With Sammy, it’s like having your own personal wind anemometer in your pocket, available 24/7 on your phone. Over the last five days, Sammy exchanged with its users over 7000 messages related to wind and weather alone,” said Peiming Chung, general manager.

Besides relating wind readings, Sammy the Sailing Bot leveraged Google’s AI platform Dialogflow for machine learning and natural language processing, allowing it to provide answers to frequently asked questions about the regatta schedule, notice of race and sailing instructions. Sammy was also used to broadcast event announcements and end of day race results, share photos and solicit feedback from participants and parents.

“My experience as a sailor means I can better understand the needs of the sailing community, and Sammy was developed to cater to these needs. For example, being able to get wind, weather and regatta information on demand is useful because it helps sailors anticipate the racing conditions at sea, making them better prepared for their races. It’s also useful in planning training sessions,” Yom said.

She said it took over a month to build the chatbot.

“While I had no prior coding experience, I had help from Ahbilash Murthy, creator of SG Bus Uncle, and other members of the chatbot community. The amazing thing about the chatbot builder community is everyone’s willingness to share their knowledge. I was able to leverage the expertise of more experienced chatbot builders at Janis and Integromat to help build Sammy the Sailing Bot.

“It was through the chatbot builder community that I learnt about how users behave when using the chatbot, which gave me the opportunity to anticipate some of their responses. For example, I learnt the importance of giving my chatbot a personality. I also learnt that users will often type free response text and not click buttons shown.”

Built on Chatfuel, a popular bot building platform, Sammy the Sailing Bot features powerful integrations with enterprise tools such as Dialogflow, Janis, Integromat and Dashbot analytics, designed to deliver an exceptional conversational experience.

“The Singapore Sailing Federation runs six local regattas a year and plans to continue using Sammy during these events,” said Deborah Kay, the Federation’s head of Digital Transformation.

“With Sammy, we have the capability to deliver real-time, personalised, one-to-one communication with all our sailors and parents simultaneously. This level of engagement is not currently feasible with the human resources we have.

“In the past, we relied solely on email to communicate with sailors and parents. However, 40-50% of emails were not opened, and important event announcements were missed. With the chatbot, we see 100% open rates and 70-80% click-through rates on our broadcasts.

“Moreover, by looking at the chat logs, we are able to get a better sense of what parents and sailors want during a regatta. For example, parents want more real time alerts and broadcasts, such as when sailors launch and recover or when a Category 1 storm warning is issued. We will be incorporating these insights into our next regatta to deliver a better experience to all participants.”

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