After bringing him in to meet the team and sending him off with his new Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch last week, we caught up with Dhanush to find out a little more about him, his interest in bots, and what he learned from the contest. Here’s what we learned:
Tell us a little about yourself. I’m currently a second-year computer science student at Diablo Valley College and planning to transfer to a 4-year university this fall. In my spare time, I make Android apps, Alexa skills, and bots – and I’m hoping to get into machine learning in the next year. I usually do 1 or 2 hackathons per month. Basically, I enjoy coding, and I spend a lot of time on it.
Where are you from? I currently live in the East Bay. I was born in India, but I moved here when I was two.
How did you discover Wit? I attended F8 in 2016 and that’s where Mark Zuckerberg announced the Messenger bots for the first time publicly on stage. It was really exciting to see this announced and, of course, they talked about Wit.ai. Although I didn’t know Laurent and the team at the time, I remember visiting their booth. And that’s why I used them for my bots when I decided to make them.
Was this your first bot? This was my second bot. The first one I made was just a few days before. I built my first bot, Kuakey, to tell you the last earthquake that happened in a city or state using USGS API.
Tell us about what you built for WittyCup. Calo is something to help people in their everyday lives. I wanted it to be useful. Basically, what it does is search through Eventbrite, Yelp and FB to give you events and food place recommendations. It goes through those APIs and brings back results based on user specifications. Even if the user doesn’t specify a search criteria, the bot will still find place to eat or events to attend.
What did you learn? Obviously, I learned how to use the Wit platform. And after meeting the Wit team, I learned I was using 1 or 2 things incorrectly. I used search_query for when the user specifies search type (food or event) and local_search for cuisine, but from what Laurent said, those are for general use and if you want to get better results you should make your own entity type for cuisine. The default types pull data from all developer projects, so it wouldn’t be as perfect as if you had made your own custom time.
Any best practices you’d recommend for fellow builders? Make the bot more naturally interactive instead of structured. I’m not an expert yet – though I hope to be. But I think from my experience so far, the one thing I would say is that you have to account for the different ways the user wants to search something in your bot. You may have a flow that you imagine the user going through, but the user might query in unexpected ways. Not making your bot too rigid allows users different ways to express the same things. They might say “Mexican cuisine” or just the word “Mexican” or a “I really want Mexican right now,” and this is definitely addressable with Inbox and Understanding tabs in Wit.
What’s your next bot? It would probably be something along similar lines (specifically focused on food or events). In general, the type of bots I would create are utilitarian ones – stuff that people would find useful in their everyday lives.
What’s your favorite bot that you’ve used? I’ve only used a few bots so far but probably one called Sensay. I read about it online and happened to meet the founders at TechCrunch Disrupt. I thought it was cool that you could talk to other random people online.
Big thanks to Dhanush for using Wit and spending time with our team.