TSA Teaches Virtual Assistant @AskTSA to Speak Spanish
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has taught its social media-based @AskTSA virtual assistant to converse in Spanish. The popular chatbot can now field questions about travel rules and regulations in Spanish as well as English, addressing the need exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic to more than a million questions in a record-breaking last fiscal year.
The TSA’s chatbot software is designed to spot and answer routine questions about airports and their security rules. The chatbot offers immediate answers to questions about what people are allowed to bring on flights, any necessary ID, and what to do about lost luggage or tickets. The two-year-old virtual assistant is embedded in both Twitter and Facebook around the clock but will refer questioners to human agents during work hours if the question goes beyond its knowledge base. The chatbot only communicated in English until now, which meant questions from those who don’t speak English all had to go to the live agents. The TSA is augmenting the AI with Spanish to pick up more of the slack.
“A Spanish version of our @AskTSA social media virtual assistant represents the agency’s first fully integrated foreign language service on our social media platforms,” TSA administrator David Pekoske said in a statement. “TSA remains committed to improving how we engage with passengers in ways that help prepare them for the most efficient checkpoint experience possible.”
Government AI Agents
The TSA is not the only governmental group choosing to invest in chatbots and AI-based communications. The same goes for voice apps like West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office Alexa skill for government information and Iowa’s state voice apps for both Alexa and Google Assistant. Mesa, Arizona’s Alexa skill can even facilitate paying utility bills. The pandemic pushed things in that direction, with IBM offering its Watson AI last year to state election officials to answer questions. Several national governments turned to chatbots during the pandemic, including the United Kingdom and India. The Indian government has even started working on a national voice assistant and chatbot to handle more governmental services in the future.