NIU Launches AI Chat Bot Tool

Jun 6, 2019

If you go to Northern Illinois University's admissions website, you’re greeted by a small chat box in the right hand corner with a picture of NIU’s mascot “Victor E. Huskie.” Only now he’s Virtual Victor, the face of the AI chat bot.

This spring, NIU launched the chat bot. Its job is to help answer questions about the university from prospective students.

Currently, the bot is used for admissions. The most common questions being about admissions deadlines, requirements and event dates. So far it has 1,300 unique answers.

“The more you interact with the bot, the smarter it gets, so we're helping him get more well versed on prospective students and the questions they have," said Jennice O'Brien, senior director of internal communications. She’s leading the project.

The university also plans to expand the program so it can talk about financial aid and orientation. It also wants to eventually open it to current students.

When the bot gets stumped, it redirects the question to a human. Then the bot relays the answer back to the prospective student. 

“He's answered almost 2,500 questions today," said O'Brien. "And has an 88% accurate accuracy rate.”

You can also sign up to text your questions to “Virtual Victor.”

The university sees it as a way to help students on their own time at any time of day, without having to go into an office or make a call.

And, if you ask, "Virtual Victor" does indeed know what kind of dog he is.