Digital hipster cat gives tips on coffeehouses
With “Mica, the Hipster Cat Bot”, Viennese native Barbara Ondrisek has developed the first German-speaking Facebook chatbot that always recommends the trendiest nearby restaurants in an entertaining way. In this interview, Ondrisek tells us how she came up with the idea and about the exciting projects she is currently working on.
- How would you explain your career to a primary school child?
Barbara Ondrisek: I am the manager of the Chatbots Agency. This is a company that produces software for other companies, such as apps for tablets (primary school children love to play with their parents’ tablets, don’t they?). We mainly make chatbots, which are small interactive programmes that “live” within other programmes. I am currently working with other companies who are helping me to implement the best projects possible.
- When did you discover your interest in computers and IT?
When I was a child, my father would always enjoy explaining all the scientific principles and technical concepts that he could to me. At some point when I was in primary school, he showed me how to programme on one of his earliest computers. I was terribly impressed then and still am to this day!
- Technology and IT are still considered male-dominated industries in this country. In your opinion, how can the number of women in the Vienna IT and startup scene be increased?
There are very many initiatives already supporting women in Vienna, such as Digitalista, Female Founders, Women of Vienna STEM, Sorority or Women Techmakers, irrespective of the special programmes offered at the universities of applied sciences. Personally, I always enjoy promoting my female colleagues and partners and am part of the Facebook Developer Circle in Vienna, where we pay close attention to inclusivity and diversity.
- With “Mica, the Hipster Cat Bot”, you have developed the first Messenger chatbot in the German-speaking world. How did you come up with the idea?
I enjoy going to trendy coffeehouses to meet friends or work. I also enjoy travelling. On my travels, it was always a challenge to find hip bars, restaurants or cafes. So I came up with a solution by writing my own little agent for this purpose. Mica, the Hipster Cat Bot https://hipstercatbot.com, was brought to life, based on the name of my cat. This chatbot provides recommendations on the best spots around the world.
- What was the greatest difficulty when working on this?
I put a whole lot of effort into giving my digital hipster cat the character and tonality of a cat. This virtual personality is sweet, hungry and can even purr. It took a lot of time to develop a character that people would enjoy talking to.
- In which areas is your service mainly implemented right now?
Mica, the Hipster Cat Bot, is the flagship product of our Chatbots Agency. However, we also do commissioned work for other customers. In this type of work, chatbots can be set up in all the areas you can think of. Up to now, we have developed service chatbots that automatically answer questions concerning a particular company, as well as hotel chatbots, a restaurant finder bot and an event sign-up bot.
- Which application areas would still be open to you?
Chatbots are very well suited to repeated tasks such as FAQs (Frequently asked questions) or forms, as long as they aren’t too long. But you can also work very well using a GPS position or sent images.
- Your company Chatbots Agency is located in the middle of Mariahilfer Strasse. What do you believe are the benefits of Vienna as a business location?
I myself love Vienna as a city to live in. It is also an attractive location for a software development agency because we have infrastructure, programmers and clients here.
- What are you working on at the moment?
We have just completed the second version of a chatbot for the Patent Office. This responds to questions concerning the Austrian Patent Office, checks potential brand names or finds suitable seminars and funding for patent and brand protection. We are also working with augmented reality, which extends images or videos by adding other computer-generated information, such as via smartphone, tablet or smart glasses. In the future, this will allow us to bring our bots from the computer into the real world.
- If you were to take a look into the future: what do you think digital communication will look like in the year 2050?
If only we knew … (laughs) but we’re working on it!
Mariahilfer Str. 45
Status: June 2018