Ciri – the first animal chatbot in Slovakia
As a non-profit organization, Sloboda zvierat always appreciates any volunteer assistance in providing care to dogs in need. In addition to the help itself, this activity simultaneously serves as a sort of trial period in the provision of care for the people who are considering getting a pet while raising awareness of the organization’s activities. However, during the lockdown, any physical visit to the organisation’s centres was complicated which made the possibility of interaction between the organization and the potential donors of 2% tax assignment rather limited. Under the lockdown conditions, it became a real challenge to promote the organization’s activities and show more details of what it actually means to provide care to a pet.
In cooperation with Wiktor Leo Burnett, the advertising agency, we designed an unusual tool for those interested in trying out what it actually means to have a dog – we enabled the “trial period” care at least virtually while making the experience as realistic as we possibly could.
Ciri, the virtual dog – in fact a chatbot – behaved like a normal dog and therefore required and needed regular care. Thus, anybody could now take care of Ciri – anyone whose life had been transferred to the online world of computers, tablets and mobile phones. The first dog chatbot delivered an experience of interaction with an animal even during the months when the possibilities of going out or taking a walk in nature were very limited. As a true virtual pet, Ciri gave paw, brought a toy, cuddled happily or obeyed the owner’d commands – but only if he or she regularly paid attention to the dog. The organization thus communicated its day-to-day activities related to provision of care to animals in shelters while bidding those interested to assign the 2% of their income tax to Sloboda zvierat. The chatbot was running in the Facebook Messenger environment, which made it possible to remind the virtual dog owners to take care of Ciri for several days and made the whole experience as close to reality as possible under the given circumstances. This was yet another way how the organisation drew attention to the fact that caring for a real pet is much more demanding. And that is one of the reasons why thousands of pets end up on the streets every year.
The chatbot was easily accessible in the online environment even during limited outing options and proved to be a suitable means of communication for the target audience of older children and young people. Courtesy of the chatbot, it was possible to interact with the dog as if she were alive – this interaction made the whole experience much more realistic compared to passive reading or watching a video for example. Ciri was able to learn some commands faster while being slower with some other ones. She was able to react to some and ignore other commands – or responded only after a while. Like a real live pet dog, she required attention and was sad if she didn’t get some. It was necessary to feed her or walk her.
In order for the virtual dog to prosper and do fine, Predu joined forces with Wiktor Leo Burnett and Leopard Production and a Slovak influencer named Matúš.
1 300 unique users tested the chatbot dog in the first week alone. As a part of dog training, users reached different levels depending on the degree of care and patience dedicated to their virtual pet. Moreover, many of them assigned 2% of their income tax or made other financial donations to the organization.
This manner of communication by Sloboda zvierat also attracted significant media attention. As many as 24 different media outlets addressed the topic of animal chatbot, which significantly helped to draw attention to the issues that Sloboda zvierat deals with on a daily basis.