BOTfriends: Building AI chatbots with Google APIs

About BOTfriends

Founded in 2017, BOTfriends is a German startup that develops conversational interfaces with the help of machine learning, such as chatbots for clients including Porsche.

Industries: Other
Location: Germany

With an inventive approach to Google APIs, German startup BOTfriends builds personality-rich AI chatbots for clients including Porsche.

Google Cloud Results

  • Reduces workload for HR responding on a social media platform by 25% according to BOTfriends
  • Improves reliability and satisfaction by testing and autoscaling chatbots with App Engine
  • Increases user engagement by more than 100% according to BOTfriends

Cut response workload on a social media platform by 25%

Founded by four friends in 2017, BOTfriends is a young startup specializing in conversational interfaces, such as chatbots and voice assistants. Since the company’s first project—a recruiting messenger chatbot created for Porsche—BOTfriends has developed bespoke solutions for a variety of purposes, modifying and re-educating its machine learning system for each client. Each BOTfriends conversational interface can provide its own personality and tone, as well as embedded media, multiple languages, push notifications, integrated webviews, location services, and image recognition.

“There are so many branches in industry where conversational interfaces really work,” says Michelle Skodowski, one of the company’s co-founders. “They can be deployed in HR, in customer service, or in media with news chatbots that give you updates. We optimize internal communications, too, with integrations in different messaging platforms.”

“We discovered the easy-to-use interface of Google Cloud Platform, and straightforward software development kits, and saw a truly efficient way to build our products. We were selected for GCP for Startups, where we received credits and hours with developers. The suport GCP offers for startups is just great.”

Michelle Skodowski, Co-Founder, BOTfriends

The team came together while two of them worked as an intern for Porsche. When interns wrote to Porsche through its social media page, the HR department took some time to respond to the volume of queries and follow-up messages requiring replies. Seeing an ideal opening for an AI chatbot, the BOTfriends team created one for the task.

“In the beginning we weren't really sure where to host everything,” says Michelle. “Then we discovered the easy-to-use interface of Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and straightforward software development kits, and saw a truly efficient way to build our products. Google’s APIs outperformed all of the alternatives that we tested, and then we had the good fortune to be selected for GCP for Startups, where we received credits and hours with developers. The support GCP offers for startups is just great.”

Building on an ideal base

No longer the preserve of online customer services, increasingly sophisticated AI conversational interfaces are a rising trend across multiple areas of industry, business, and leisure. “It's a new technology and there's so much to try out,” says Michelle. “Event areas, for example, are one really big use case among many. With a chatbot we can communicate with people through their messaging app, so they don't have to download anything. They can just ask for information and the chatbot will tell them. That’s a major change.”

BOTfriends developed its original product for Porsche, creating a recruitment chatbot based on a popular messaging platform. “We developed it with guided communications, at first,” explains Michelle. “There were simple buttons for a user to click through, rather than text. But then we saw that users were writing whole sentences and we recognized a need for natural language processing. We looked at providers for natural language processing services and compared products from three major companies. With Dialogflow, Google was the best provider.” More than a single service, however, BOTfriends required a comprehensive platform solution to take its plans to the next level.

“We use Google APIs and Dialogflow as a base from which we develop individual solutions for customers. Now when a company comes to us with highly specific requests, we can mix and match Google APIs to develop a bespoke solution.”

Michelle Skodowski, Co-Founder, BOTfriends

By building its solution on Google Cloud Platform, BOTfriends can focus on developing new products instead of maintenance thanks to GCP managed services, while making use of a wide range of leading APIs. “The machine learning capabilities on Google Cloud Platform made Google the obvious choice for us,” says Michelle. “It gives our chatbots the sophistication to stand out.” With the flexibility of Google App Engine, BOTfriends can distribute traffic onto different chatbots to test which performs the best. In addition, autoscaling on App Engine means BOTfriends chatbots can handle almost unlimited requests without compromising availability.

“We use Google APIs and Dialogflow as a base from which we develop individual solutions for customers,” says Michelle. “Now when a company comes to us with highly specific requests, we can mix and match Google APIs to develop a bespoke solution.”

Scaling across the language barrier

With an immediate demand for German-language interaction, the BOTfriends team recognized the central role of translation services in their products.

“The Cloud Translation API is without doubt the best service of its kind on the market,” says Michelle. “It means we can have conversations with anyone around the globe, without the work of sourcing our own knowledge bases in every language. It's not yet perfect, so we let users know that they’re reading an automated translation and give them the option to switch to English, if they prefer.”

Inventing with APIs

According to BOTfriends, the Porsche chatbot reduced the workload of the relevant HR team by over 25% and led to an increase in engagement of more than 100%. Now the four founders are looking to automate the training of their chatbots further, to simplify the process of creating new bespoke products and prepare for operations at scale. At the same time, they’re set to deliver new services with an inventive approach to Google APIs.

“We want to use Cloud Natural Language API to analyze sentiment, so that frustrated users can be escalated to human staff,” says Michelle. “We are looking to use Vision API to give product-specific information. We want to use Speech API to translate speech into text for chatbot. We are always learning in the cloud and finding new possibilities.”

About BOTfriends

Founded in 2017, BOTfriends is a German startup that develops conversational interfaces with the help of machine learning, such as chatbots for clients including Porsche.

Industries: Other
Location: Germany
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