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Bilingual bot for US Spanish speakers

Tech company Ocelot, which builds artificial intelligence tools for higher education, has launched a bilingual chatbot that offers services in both English and Spanish for students and parents at colleges and universities.

OcelotOcelot specialises in creating AI tech for higher ed Image: Bruce Mars via Pexels

Having been adopted by 40 colleges across the US since June this year, the chatbot took over a year to develop.

“This new innovation is a great resource for parents of first-generation college students”

“Ocelot’s Spanish-language AI content libraries build on Ocelot’s work over the past two decades creating multi-lingual publications and videos for colleges,” the company explained in a press release.

“Unlike chatbots that rely on automated translation functionality, Ocelot’s bilingual Bots have been trained with vocabulary and terminology consistent with US Department of Education Spanish guidelines.”

Founded by its CEO, Damon Vangelis, Ocelot’s higher education tools provide assistance for queries about applications, international study and financial aid. Its website says that its bots can deal with 97.5% of its interactions, cutting the need for human interaction and that 40% of users utilise the bots outside of office hours.

“The biggest challenge was the training. We decided to train our chatbot in Spanish, rather than using an automated translation service,” Ocelot’s Steve Johnston told The PIE News.

We work in higher education, so it was important that our bilingual chatbot could converse using the same terminology and vocabulary we use in our Spanish-language publications and videos. We spent a year training our Bot to ensure that the conversations continued to get better and better.

“It took a while, but it was well worth the effort.”

According to a US census, one in every five college students in the US is Hispanic. For parents with no or limited English, helping children with college and university life in the States can be a challenge.

“Our mission is to make a better life more accessible for students,” Vangelis said.

“This new innovation is a great resource for parents of first-generation college students who struggle to understand complex topics like financial aid and housing.”

The new chatbot has received a warm welcome from early adopters.

“The Spanish chatbot is huge for our institution because we serve a large Hispanic population,” Elizabeth Hilton, director of Riverside City College, said.

The company is continuing to look at how bots in other languages can help international students.

We are currently working on a Chinese bot, and will launch it once we are done training it,” Johnston said.

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