Chatbot should convince vaccine skeptics | heise online

“I understand you. You will not be chipped or manipulated if you get a COVID-19 vaccination. There are no tracking mechanisms in the vaccine.”

Probably because they were tired of repeating such sentences over and over again, researchers of the International Vaccine Access Centers delegating the work of persuading vaccine skeptics to a machine. They fed you Chatbot with around 150 concerns and 300 answers about COVID-19 vaccinations. The answers come from experts at Johns Hopkins University. All questions and answers can also be seen at a glance Show to let.

The chatbot called Vira (“Vaccine Information Resource Assistant”) is intended primarily to appeal to young people and come across as relaxed. The dialogue is to be expanded on an ongoing basis based on user questions.

The technology behind it comes from IBM. At its heart is the “Key Point Analysis”, one of the results of the “Project Debater”. It is used to recognize the most diverse formulations of the same concern and to focus on a central question.

More from MIT Technology Review

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More from MIT Technology Review

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A small sample showed that the English-speaking bot actually understands most of the relevant questions right away without having to rephrase them multiple times – even with typing errors and spelling mistakes. In addition, the bot has a memory for the course of the conversation. If you ask a question for the second time, he varies his answer: “I apologize if this is repetitive. There are no microchips in the COVID-19 vaccines. The only purpose of the vaccine is to protect you.”

And if the database does not find an immediately suitable answer, the bot is still on the right track. In response to the question “I am 11th Is it safe to be vaccinated?” He answers with “I’m sorry, but I’m not sure I understood your point”, but presents a list of clickable, pre-formulated questions such as “Can children get the vaccine?” Then he replies: “No COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for children younger than 12.”

A list of predefined questions also appears if you click on the “thumbs down” symbol for an answer. You cannot ask direct questions, because the input field is deactivated after the first answer. So there can be no question of a real dialogue. But in this way the conversation always stays close to the topic and does not wander.

The creators want to develop similar chatbots to enable individuals to make “better informed decisions” about topics such as smoking, donating blood or voting, as in the US FAQs called.


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