NTU Singapore rolls out virtual assistant to 6000 students, leverages OniGroup and Google Cloud

Chatbot powered by Google Cloud's Mega Agent technology

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has launched a new virtual assistant to help more than 6000 incoming students transition to university life, leveraging expertise from Google Cloud and specialist partner OniGroup.

Under the banner of Project Lyon 2.0, the chatbot is designed to complement the virtual Freshmen Orientation held online, which has replaced the annual Freshman Orientation program due to Covid-19. The aim is to provide students with an “easy-to-use” mobile experience offering guidance specific to NTU Smart Campus resources and on-boarding activities.

Leveraging the expertise of consulting partner OniGroup, NTU’s Centre for IT Services (CITS) worked with Google Cloud to "program and train" the new chatbot to provide enhanced levels of user experience, developed in consultation with student feedback.

Powered by Google Cloud's Mega Agent technology - launched globally in February - the chatbot offers enhanced conversational flows, allowing the offering to "hold a conversation similar to talking with a real person" to help drive wider usage across the university.

“The chatbot is a great example of how the university’s staff and students can work together synergistically to develop and deploy a robust technological solution on the NTU Smart Campus, which helps to ensure the safe onboarding of new students amidst the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Tan Aik Na, senior vice president of Administration at NTU Singapore.

“During this challenging period where all activities are encouraged to go virtual, Project Lyon Chatbot is now a critical feature of the upcoming freshmen orientation, as part of the university’s digitalisation efforts. Our students were guided and empowered to create a useful chatbot for their peers, and they also picked up valuable chatbot development skills in the process.”

In deploying the virtual assistant, NTU becomes the first education institution in Southeast Asia to use Dialogflow Mega Agent, which can process up to 20,000 intents (queries) in addition to providing students with a wider variety of relevant information related to university activities.

For example, the chatbot can address questions such as 'how to register for courses?' and 'can you show me the examination timetable?'. This is in addition to suggesting suitable dining options and helping students navigate the campus through directions to tutorial rooms or labs.

"Answering the myriad of questions that new students have can be tricky, especially in a time where physical interactions are limited,” added Gary Lim, education leader of Public Sector across Southeast Asia at Google Cloud.

"With the ease of integration and the enhanced number of intents that the new agent is able to handle, we believe that the new chatbot will serve the needs of the NTU students, helping them take their first steps as a university student and to find their sense of belonging to NTU."

The chatbot has now been rolled out for a fresh batch of students who start the new term in August 2020.

Established as a Premier Partner of choice for Google Geo, G Suite, search, cloud and analytics solutions,OniGroup operates as a 100 per cent provider of Google technologies, leveraging a solid track record spanning more than a decade.

Founded in 2006, the Sydney-based business works together with customers to identify, integrate and leverage cutting edge tools and technologies, designed to improve organisational efficiency, collaboration and knowledge management, with deep expertise in Google Cloud Platform (GCP).