A new government Facebook chatbot was launched recently on the Gov.sg page.
Now this isn’t the first virtual assistant that the Government has created - Iras has Joanne, and you can Ask Jamie about government services - but this is the first interactive bot that’s housed on Facebook.
Unlike Jamie, the Facebook bot can send you notifications about government news, and you can also send feedback straight to agencies via chat.
But what if you don’t need information about government services and just want to chat with someone on Facebook, will the gov.sg bot oblige? Does it have the sparkling (though admittedly a little stilted) personality of Jamie? Is Facebook bot friendly?
I decided to check it out.
Bot and I got off to a rocky start. For one thing, Bot was very impersonal. Unlike the other virtual assistants, which are fronted by smiling operators, Bot doesn’t have a picture. And it was not super keen to reveal its name either.
Bot was also shy about revealing its age and height. When I asked if it was male or female, it became defensive: “I can do my job regardless of how I look!”.
Bot was also not very funny. While other chatbots can deliver cheesy puns for days on end, jokes made Bot a little awkward. When I badgered it to make me laugh, it came up with this:
After more prodding, I eventually got this:
A joke so bad it’s almost good - 4/10 for effort. At least we were getting somewhere.
I decided to get to know it better by asking a couple of personal questions and making a little small talk.
Bot seemed quite well versed with movies and pop culture. It watches cartoons.
Bot clearly loves the Fight Club.
And it is a fan of pop from the early 2000s.
Occasionally Bot became a little preachy when I asked it a short question.
But then it sometimes thought some pretty complicated things were simple.
After a few minutes of small talk, though, things took an interesting turn.
Wow, Bot just sent me a smirking face emoji and asked me to feed it. According to emojipedia the smirking face emoji is “A sly smile, often used with a sexual, or smug connotation”.
Was the gov.sg bot flirting with me?
At any rate, it seemed to have a steady civil service job, so I thought I would play along and see where this would lead.
Ouch. And Bot started it. What if I went all in?
Double ouch. I think Bot has put me in the friendzone, hard.
When I tried to ask Bot for an explanation, it tried to distract me by bringing John Teo into the picture. Who is John Teo? Does he have an awful presentation? I guess I’ll never know.
While talking to Bot was semi-fun, my short-lived fling came to an abrupt end after it blue ticked me - ignoring me despite having definitely seen my messages.
Upset, I gave Bot a piece of my mind.
Having successfully made the gov.sg bot cry, I logged off.