Come say hello to our friendly chatbots inworld. We have 2 types on the island: avatar-chatbots and prim-chatbots.
What is a chatbot I hear you ask? A ‘chatbot’ is an automated program that can carry out a conversation with a human being via an online (or in the case of Second Life an inworld) interface. In the case of Chinese Island, our chatbots are what is commonly known in a lot of games, particularly educational ones, as non-player characters (NPCs).
Our NPC avatar-chatbots are unlike many that you will find on the internet in that they are specifically programmed with information about topics relevant to the study of Chinese language and culture undertaken by our students. They do not carry out random, circular and often meaningless chat, but rather can do things like carry out a role play on a specific topic in Chinese. Topics include ordering food at a restaurant, inquiring about rental accommodation at a real estate agency, inquiring about the procedure for seeing a doctor and seeing a doctor when you are ill.
You can interact with our NPC avatar-chatbots by going into Second Life and going to our island (Chinese Island) to meet and chat with them. Don’t forget, they only respond to Chinese characters and fairly simple questions (you can, for example, ask them what their name is and where they are from). In the case of one of our NPC avatar-chatbots, Jingjing, who is a waitress at the Tongfu Inn on the island, in addition to talking to her you can also order food from her and you will actually be given the dishes you ordered (they will be placed on the table for you).
As we have to deal with quite large numbers of students (150 in 1st semester of Beginners Chinese), the NPC avatar-chatbots have proved to be a fantastic asset for classroom management. They are able to each simultaneously carry out conversations with many, many students, and can perform a basic range of functions (like rezzing objects, giving things directly to students, show you to a table, etc.), freeing our teaching staff up to go around the computer lab and interact with individual students directly while they work through the set tasks. This enables us to provide much more tailored assistance to individual students (因材施教) as we discuss what they are doing at that moment and help them work through any problems (linguistic and non-linguistic) that they may have run into.
In the near future we hope to cover other topics and to make the scope of our existing NPC chatbots’ dialog even broader and deeper and to make them even be able to carry out even more sophisticated actions that will both aid in the running of lessons and also convey even more information about Chinese culture and customs.
We also have a number of NPC prim-chatbots on the island. These characters are much more static than their avatar-chatbot cousins and their range of conversation is, at the moment, quite limited. All of them respond to Chinese character input except for our receptionist on the ground floor of the tall building at the southern end of the island. She speaks English and can answer basic questions about the island.
So, give it a try and have a chat in Chinese with one or all of our NPC chatbots! You can meet them at the following locations on the island:
Our waitress at the Tongfu Inn 同福客栈, which can be found at the north-east end of the island.
Our nurse receptionist in the medical clinic on the 2nd floor of the tall building at the south end of the island.
Our island doctor who can also be found in the medical clinic in the 门诊室 or outpatients office.
Our pharmacist in the medical clinic. She can be found in the 药房 or pharmacy next to the outpatients office.
Our railway station attendant. She can be found, naturally enough, in the railway station behind the ticket counter. The railway station is in the south-west corner of the island.
Tianming is our fruit and vegetable seller in the fresh fruit and vegetable market. The market can be found in our village at the northern end of the sim. You can buy the various fruit and vegetables displayed from Tianming, but make sure you are wearing your Wallet HUD (available from a number of locations around the island).
The newest member of our team, Zhang Rongyu has a dual role on the island. He is both the travel agent and the real estate agent for the island. He can be found in either the travel agency or the real estate office in the village at the southern end of the island.
Zhang Shifu 张师傅:
The Story of the Duanwu Festival