The Italian start-up, U-Hopper, was approved for funding in the second open call of OrganiCity. Their experiment, TalkingCity, explores how a chatbot-service can create value for citizens and the city when it is connected to Aarhus’ event data. To understand how citizens and city stakeholders would react to their prototype, CEO, Daniele Miorandi, from U-Hopper took a trip to Aarhus at the end of February, where he met with another OrganiCity experiment, SafeCity. We asked Daniele a couple of questions about his visit to Aarhus:
First meeting with Daniele in Aarhus – his colleague joined through Skype for a quick chat.
- It was my first time in Aarhus. I have to admit, I was really impressed by the good vibes of the city. Aarhus is a young and energetic city, and you can fill it everywhere in town. Couple that with excellent museums (I really enjoyed ARoS!) and you get a perfect destination – not just for a business trip. Ok, probably February was not the best time of the year, especially with the ‘Beast from the East’ sweeping through northern Europe, but it was all-in-all a great trip.
Daniele meeting with local partners from Anorak.
- The main goal of my trip to Aarhus was to meet with local stakeholders. This included meetings with Aarhus municipality officers, other Organicity experimenters and of course, citizens! My trip to Aarhus coincided indeed (not by chance) with the second round of validation tests with Aarhus citizens, which we performed live in Dokk1 with the support of our local partners from Anorak.
What were the key insights from demonstrating your chatbot to citizens?
- Testing with citizens is always fun, as you learn a lot of stuff you just didn’t think about. While the outcomes were generally very positive, one issue that emerged relates to the fact that people are – to a large extent – not really used to interacting with chatbots. Some people didn’t really know how far they could go with the interactions, while others just panicked because of the speed of the chatbot at reacting to questions. I think this is more a cultural issue: chatbots are still at the forefront of technology, and it will take 1-2 years for people to get fully acquainted with them.
How did the city stakeholders react to your chatbot?
- City stakeholders were really impressed by the level of maturity of our work. It was clear to me that they didn’t expect an experiment to go that far or to be close to production quality. And it seems there are potential synergies with other initiatives going on within the city, so hopefully we’ll find a way to extend TalkingCity together in the near future.
City Stakeholders trying out TalkingCity.
While U-hopper was in town, there was time for Daniele to meet up the group from SafeCity – a local OrganiCity experiment. The two groups shared their experiences and prototypes, so we asked Daniele what he gained from this meeting.
The SafeCity group trying out U-Hopper’s chatbot.
- It was interesting to see how they tackled the co-design part of the work. As the experiment they are working on is close to some initiatives we ran in the past in the field of crowdsensing and civic engagement, I hope I managed to provide some useful suggestions and advice!
We also asked Sara Andersson, Design Strategy & Experience Manager from design-people and experiment lead for the SafeCity experiment, some questions:
Thomas Frisk and Sara Sandersson presenting SafeCity to U-Hopper.
- We – the design-people/Kanda team – found it very inspiring to meet with Daniele from TalkingCity. The OrganiCity blog and Instagram feed has been good for getting insights into what the other experiment teams are up to. Meeting up in real life with another experimenter adds to the notion of impact we can create together, experimenting with great ideas under the OrganiCity umbrella. We found it especially interesting to hear about the way TalkingCity are experimenting with chatbot interfaces as a new channel for communicating with citizens.
- It’s also fun to experience hands-on with the TalkingCity prototype, as we found you get a much more personal experience interacting with a chatbot than with a traditional information interface. For now, we only use a chatbot for the onboarding in our SafeCity app, so it was interesting for us to learn that Daniele had previous experience with using a chatbot for letting citizens report issues in the city. Chat-based reporting might be something we implement at a later stage in the SafeCity app.
Both TalkingCity and SafeCity are now entering the last mile of their projects, where they are to refine business models and focus on the sustainability of their experiments after the funding period. As you can see from the meeting between TalkingCity and SafeCity, there is a great deal of insights to gain if you share your experiments with each other, so if there are experiment groups out there reading this blog-post, then we urge you to do the same!