Published April 7, 2021
If you’ve visited the UBIT website recently, you may have been greeted by Virtual Vic, UB’s new customer service chatbot. This unassuming virtual assistant hints at the power of emerging technology to boost UB’s potential in the years to come.
Virtual Vic, powered by Ivy.ai, is coming to several UB websites in 2021, including Student Accounts and the Career Design Center. Virtual assistants like Vic use machine learning and natural language processing to understand your questions and find the answers you need.
Even if you aren’t deeply familiar with the technology that makes Virtual Vic possible, you have probably interacted with a chatbot like Vic in the past few years. Virtual Vic, like other chatbots, isn’t perfect right out of the box. Virtual Vic learns from experience. So I hope you’ll help us out the next time you’re on the UBIT website by playing a quick round of “stump the chatbot.”
If you’re skeptical about the value chatbots like these add, I encourage you to lean into the Virtual Vic experience all the same. Because Virtual Vic isn’t just a chatbot—it’s an early example of the vast potential that technology like this can offer UB.
UB thrives on collaboration. Any opportunities we can create for UB’s schools and departments to work together in synergy will multiply our potential as a research institution.
To illustrate: sometimes we have a question we want to ask, but don’t know who to ask. Virtual Vic has a single “brain” that learns from every web page where it’s included. If a student asks Virtual Vic a question about tuition, that student can expect to get the best available answer, no matter whether she asks on the Student Accounts website, the UBIT website or elsewhere.
When students can use Virtual Vic to find fast answers to common questions any time of the day, they have more time and peace of mind to help them succeed in their studies. It also frees the employees who would have provided those answers to focus their energy for greater impact. In this way, small improvements in how we do business can ripple outward through our operations, creating more opportunity with every interaction.
I see potential for technology like this in nearly every area of UB’s business operations. UBIT is currently working with partners across campus on projects where this technology will be relevant, including the implementation of a new customer relationship management (CRM) system. Our role in IT should be to educate and advocate for the benefits of this technology in areas like these where we see this potential.
Virtual Vic is uniquely talented at solving simple problems. But at UB, we are uniquely talented at solving complex problems. Virtual Vic is important not because of the powerful technology that makes it possible, but because of what, aided by that technology, we can make possible.
J. Brice Bible is the Vice President and Chief Information Officer (VPCIO) for UB. UBIT is a service division at UB that provides enterprise technology leadership and guidance.