UP's COVID-19 chatbot now available in ‘bekispeak’

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 26 2020 03:13 PM | Updated as of May 26 2020 03:15 PM

MANILA — The University of the Philippines on Tuesday announced that its “chatbot” providing COVID-19 information is now available in the “Beki language” or slang used by the LGBT community.

 

“LGBT slang or the Beki language option is now available when you converse with Yani! If you’re looking for COVID-19 statistics, the nearest hospitals, links to therapy and counseling, or information on policies, you can talk to Yani through Facebook messenger: m.me/YaniEndCovBot,” UP posted in its Facebook page.

A chatbot is a computer application that allows people to get information online by chatting with artificial intelligence or a database. Chatbots have been used by various groups to promote the spread of helpful information during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team’s chatbot answers questions related to COVID-19, from queries on hospitals to government policies.

“Aside from creating a multilingual AI chatbot, the UP Team has also produced social media flashcards in various Philippine languages, such as Filipino, Aklanon, Bahasa Sug, Bikol Sentral, Cebuano, Chavacano de Zamboanga, Hiligaynon, Ilokano, Itawis, Kapampangan, Meranaw, Waray Leyte, and Waray Samar,” the UP post said.

 

By clicking on the link m.me/YaniEndCovBot, the user receives messages from Yani the Endcovbot, who explains that he is named after “our heroes in the fight against COVID-19.”

The chatbot explains that he can also link up people to psychologists and psychosocial support specialists.

He then asks the user to choose the preferred language: English, Filipino or Beki.

The bot uses phrases like “Sana wititit pa itey malaley. Saanchi ka ngayonchi?” and “Ang tarush, anditey ka. Anong policy areas ang betcha by golly wow mo?”

When using the English version, these phrases translate to “I hope this is not an urgent need. Where are you located right now?” and “Great to have you here! What policy areas are you interested in?”

Some answers, however, have yet to be translated to Bekispeak.

For example, when asking about COVID-19 policies, the chatbot reverts to English.

Some commenters expressed support for the project with one lauding UP for being “very inclusive.”

The UP post has since received more than 130 shares and almost 500 likes.