What this puppy chat­bot says about the friendly fu­ture of fin­tech for con­sumers

In­tuit thinks this puppy will make fi­nance more fun.

PCWorld (USA) - - News | S5mark A Rootkit In Disguise - BY MELISSA RIOFRIO

This puppy chat­bot is the most adorable ex­am­ple yet of the promise of fin­tech. Fin­tech is a blan­ket term for fi­nan­cial tech­nolo­gies. Fin­tech ranges from the pay­ment and bank­ing apps many of us al­ready use, to the AI and ma­chine-learn­ing ap­pli­ca­tions that crunch trans­ac­tional data for fi­nan­cial com­pa­nies, to cryp­tocur­rency, blockchain, and other com­plete re-imag­in­ings of how money works. In June, at In­tuit’s In­no­va­tion Lab in San Francisco, the puppy was one of sev­eral ex­per­i­ments shown by the com­pany’s de­vel­op­ers that ex­plore how con­sumers could ex­pe­ri­ence fin­tech in their daily lives—and maybe have more fun

with man­ag­ing money.

A PUPPY (OR KIT­TEN) THAT CARES

The puppy chat­bot, along with a kit­ten and some hu­man-like char­ac­ters, are an ex­per­i­ment in what In­tuit called em­pa­thetic vir­tual as­sis­tants. De­signed to present a friendly face for an­swer­ing your fi­nan­cial ques­tions, th­ese chat­bots can con­verse us­ing nat­u­ral lan­guage and ex­press one of six emo­tions based on how you seem to be feel­ing when you call.

Cindy Os­mon of In­tuit demon­strated with a chat­bot that looked like a young Asian woman. As Cindy asked ques­tions and pre­sented problems, the chat­bot’s ex­pres­sion shifted from alert at­ten­tion to con­cern to smil­ing res­o­lu­tion.

The chat­bots’ emo­tions are just mimicry, and they’re work­ing with a script. Still, their abil­ity to ap­pear some­what real could make a cus­tomer more likely to dis­cuss their prob­lem and ac­cept sug­gested so­lu­tions.

A year into de­vel­op­ing this con­cept, train­ing the chat­bot to re­act ap­pro­pri­ately to peo­ple’s emo­tions re­mains a big chal­lenge, Os­mon ad­mit­ted. “We’re us­ing third-party anal­y­sis to de­ter­mine whether a sen­tence is sad or happy,” she ex­plained, “but text-tospeech isn’t enough. We’re look­ing at vo­cal pat­terns too.” Even at this early stage, the chat­bot’s smiles, frowns, and slow eye-blinks clearly en­gaged and dis­armed spec­ta­tors— and that could be a path to bet­ter tech­sup­port calls.

A FRIENDLY FI­NAN­CIAL APP

Friend­li­ness de­fined an­other demon­stra­tion us­ing an app called Shield. Its job is to in­ject a lit­tle fun into the process of mak­ing bet­ter fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions.

In­tuit’s Su­mayah Rah­man showed how the app uses quizzes to de­fine your spend­ing style and an­a­lyze your fi­nan­cial si­t­u­a­tion. Armed with this in­for­ma­tion, the app can help you set use­ful goals, such as build­ing up an emergency fund.

The fic­tional demo cus­tomer, a young woman named Lily, is an im­pul­sive spender who likes to in­dulge in so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties and ba­si­cally has no money saved up. Rah­man showed how the app could nudge Lily to­ward some fi­nan­cial tar­gets and make it eas­ier to

meet them by rout­ing money au­to­mat­i­cally from Lily’s pay­check into a sav­ings ac­count.

What the app and chat­bot ex­per­i­ments have in com­mon is the per­sonal touch. In­tuit’s goal is to use AI and ma­chine learn­ing to tailor its fi­nan­cial plan­ning and man­age­ment ser­vices to the in­di­vid­ual and bol­ster cus­tomer en­gage­ment. The more com­fort­able some­one feels us­ing a prod­uct, the more they’ll use it, In­tuit hopes. This greater com­fort could lead to bet­ter fi­nan­cial be­hav­ior, and it could also cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for In­tuit to sell peo­ple loans and other fi­nan­cial prod­ucts, nat­u­rally.

Paypal ex­ec­u­tive Swati Bha­tia summed up the pur­pose of the help­ful app, the dis­arm­ing puppy chat­bot, and other ex­per­i­ments dur­ing a panel dis­cus­sion at the event. “What would it take for fi­nan­cial ser­vices to be em­bed­ded so deeply that it’s al­most in­vis­i­ble? Trust and con­ve­nience. We can only get to this pos­si­ble fu­ture if users trust their fi­nan­cial com­pa­nies.”

It’s in­ter­est­ing how “trust” in fi­nan­cial ser­vices used to be ex­pressed by im­ages of sta­bil­ity, such as rocks and large an­i­mals and im­pos­ing build­ings. In the new age of fin­tech, it’s pup­pies and kit­tens and friendly apps, reach­ing out to cus­tomers in a way that’s much more warm and fuzzy.

In­tuit’s ex­per­i­men­tal chat­bot fi­nan­cial as­sis­tant could take on many per­sonas, in­clud­ing this cute kit­ten.

In­tuit’s Shield app can be used to reach fi­nan­cial goals through au­to­mated ac­tions and sim­ple en­cour­age­ment.

In­tuit’s Shield app helps peo­ple reach fi­nan­cial goals by set­ting pri­or­i­ties and en­cour­ag­ing re­spon­si­ble be­hav­iors.

Take a quiz to find out your fi­nan­cial style, and In­tuit’s ex­per­i­men­tal app will ad­just its ad­vice ac­cord­ingly.

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