SINGAPORE - Ever wanted to have an out-of-the-world experience?
You can now do so by chatting with a kind "soul" online to find out more about the Hungry Ghost Festival - thanks to a chatbot created by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).
His name? Mr Woo. (His full name is Mr WoOoO, said MCCY.)
The chatbot is the first one for the festival, MCCY said in a statement on Thursday (Aug 16).
The ministry said it is one of the ways it is exploring the use of digital tools to build a greater understanding of Singapore's intangible cultural heritage.
Mr Woo's display picture on his Facebook page is an empty red plastic chair, a reference to the first row of chairs usually kept empty at getai performances for supernatural "visitors".
And he is in town for his "yearly trip in search of good food, exciting concerts and intriguing ceremonies".
According to his Facebook profile: "Mr Woo is a chatbot who doesn’t just know all about the Hungry Ghost Festival – he lives it.
"Confused about the origins of the festival? Want to know what’s going on this month? Or just plain bored? You know WoOoOoOo to talk to!"
His personal interests include eating, making new friends, candle-lit dinners and exploring new places.
Users are able to chat with him on Facebook Messenger and ask questions about the festival until Sept 9.
"He is brimming with information on the festival's origins and practices, having built up his store of knowledge by consulting religious leaders from Buddhist and Taoist faiths," said MCCY.
Wondering where the nearest temple is? Mr Woo is geographically savvy too, and provides location-based directions to the closest Buddhist or Taoist temple - and even getai performances.
Other government organisations are also making use of chatbots to engage the public. Government feedback unit Reach plans to have a new interactive chatbot on its website for Singaporeans to share their opinions on this year’s National Day Rally on Sunday.
Is Mr Woo as friendly and knowledgeable as he claims? We put him to the test.
You can find Mr Woo at https://www.facebook.com/Mr.WooOoOoOOo/
His Facebook Messenger address is https://bit.ly/MrWoo