SLASSCOM and AIClub inspire 14-year old creator of AI chatbot COLBY
Founded by the Tech Forum of Sri Lanka Association for Software Services Companies (SLASSCOM) to position Sri Lanka as a hub for Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Asia by creating awareness and adoption of AI, the AI Centre of Excellence (AICx) has been actively promoting the concept as a sought-after discipline among all Sri Lankans, especially the younger generation.
Mentored by the Founder of AIClub, and member of the Executive Committee of SLASSCOM AICx Dr. Nisha Talagala, 14-year old Anudi Nupearachchi recently created COLBY – an AI-driven chatbot to help people cope with loneliness.
“It’s always inspiring to see young minds at work – Anudi has made us all proud and encouraged the pursuit of AI adoption in Sri Lanka,” shared SLASSCOM Chairman Channa Manoharan.
Identifying that loneliness was a common condition due to the pandemic, and supporting her observation with her own research, Anudi set about creating a chatbot to help lessen loneliness via interactive communications.
The chatbot asks how users are feeling, and based on their answers, it identifies five emotions and provides recommendations and feedback. Available on Android, the chatbot is also instilled with information, including numbers given by Sri Lanka Sumithrayo and CCC hotline, for users to get further help if needed. COLBY, which stands for Cure Of Loneliness, has received a lot of positive feedback, and Anudi is ready to make it available on iOS and take it to the next level with enhanced AI-driven features interactivity.
“She is an inspiration to children who dream of making a difference – her venture into AI-based inventions, at such an early age, really sets the benchmark for children everywhere,” says Dr. Talagala.
“She is a role model to everyone who wants to use Artificial Intelligence and technology to make the world a better place, and especially to girls who do not know how many women have made great contributions in this area.” added Dr. Talagala, explaining that Anudi has even developed a set of life-sized robotic legs – part of a larger project to help people.
The AICx has many plans to help Sri Lanka become a centre of competency for AI. Concentrating on the centre’s Awareness Building and Capability Building pillars, it is committed to teaching people how to apply AI across various jobs.
Discussing the AICx’s capability development plans, Dr. Romesh Ranawana, Chairman of the AICx, mentioned on its two-pronged focus: “We will be working on generic capability development for those who are new to AI, and also specialized capability development to upskill the AI workforce we have to ensure that Sri Lanka is on par with the rest of the region. The AICx has several workshops in the pipeline. We are working on a six-part webinar series to demystify AI, targeting business level individuals, in addition to more awareness-building activities with support from SLASSCOM,” he says.
“All the goals of the AICx can be reduced to one – demystifying AI,” adds Dr. Talagala. She notes: “AI is perceived to be magical and dangerous, but it is neither. It is a powerful technology that, when used correctly, is very effective. AI literacy initiatives have shown that it’s quite possible to master AI across a range of disciplines. We always have to remember that any AI accomplishment is the work of an army of smart humans who made it work. People like Anudi, make AI real.” Reiterating the fact that the younger generation is key to the success of AI, Dr. Talagala emphasizes the need for AI literacy among kids, “We have to remember that kids today are living in a world where Artificial Intelligence – from product recommendations to digital assistants – are already part of their daily lives. It is important that they understand these technologies that are so critical to their future and their communities. If you are looking for how to get a head start – follow Anudi’s example!