ReBo – Emotional AI Chatbot

How to create an interesting, emotional AI, with intriguing stories?

I Start the project as the leader, and work with the members with engineering, psychology and history background.  I’m responsible for design and management.

ReBo is an emotional AI chatbot inspired by the famous ancient Chinese poet, Li Bai.

Departing from traditional AI, ReBo is more human-like, insofar as he can chat and exhibit happiness or sorrow that is triggered by memories, or even go offline when he gets drunk. He tells his story through everyday conversations, and if you share your life and story with him, he may even become inspired enough to write poems again…

(Now under development supported by Tencent Inc. It will be online in the beginning of 2020. )

Meet a born-again ancient poet in the modern world

Inspirations from game

Virtual characters in games (especially simulation games) are compelling because of their behaviors and words. Players can become attached to them as the game progresses. Game designers often foster empathy, meaning that the core of the design is psychology not just technology.

Drawing on what I learned through the techniques employed in games, I identified methods to make AI emotional and attractive.

User journal map

Empathy and communication necessitate understanding and cooperation, meaning, as a designer, I must identify how to pique a user’s interest in conversing and facilitating long-term communication. The key objective is to make AI a narrator who exhibits self-awareness. I used the following journal map to find the entry points.

Character design

Technical solution: We used the Tuling robot (AI Chatbot service) as our base corpus, applied special mechanics in the back-end through itChat (in python3), and input keywords through the natural language processing platform Boson.

After all… He’s a poet!

A poet needs life experience and inspiration to draw on, but since ReBo cannot travel he takes users’ descriptions of their lives as raw material. Although it is not easy to provoke, when a user becomes familiar with him, he may reveal his talents and imagination once again…

Final results

Ultimately, we had more than 200 test users from different backgrounds, 95% of whom were college students or white-collar workers around 30-years-old. With ReBo, they talked about their everyday lives or anything they found interesting. Many of them were surprised by Rebo’s flexibility and the intriguing stories he told.

Here is a translated example extracted from a real conversation between a user and Rebo:

  • National Innovation Program ( received the highest level of funding )
  • China-US Beijing Creative Award – Second prize ( shortlisted for national finals )
  • Internet+National College Student Entrepreneurship Competition – Second prize in Beijing
  • Tsinghua University •  “top 10” best Entrepreneurial teams

Concept Video:

Further idea: Hardware

This project was set up in my secondary major (intelligent hardware), so although we think that the design of chatbot is the core, we still do some research about the connection to the wearable device. Through hardware devices, we can give artificial intelligence a “sensory” toward the real world.

The main point is, the experience for users should be like “take the ancients to feel modern life today”, which means, the existence of ai should be integrated into the user’s daily life. After considering various plans: watch, brooch with web cam, headphones… Finally, we think that the idea in the movie Her is pretty appropriate: since the mobile phone is the most intimate and inseparable device in our life, a smart phone case became our choice.



– Why not use voice communication?

Because the voice recognition technology is too restrictive, which will bring great barriers to human-computer interaction.

– How to identify the user’s content?

We add these unique designs to the existing traditional open source chatbot, as well as a large number of newly written special corpora. ReBo mainly supported by gamified design: predicting the user’s possible responses and answers, and designing responses in a targeted manner.

– Can you achieve multiple rounds of dialogue?

Same as the previous one. For many new conversations, especially those about ReBo’s past life, we will consider the user’s possible response and form multiple rounds of responses. 

– I saw the social media of AI in the video?

This is an idea and part of our future plan.

– Can the phone case feel the touch?

No. Although this feature may sound fancy, people actually don’t have physical contact when they meet new friends, so we didn’t add this sensor. We hope that people can regard AI as a person, not a pet.

-How can I try it?

The current rebo is only available on WeChat in Chinese. I will update the information when it’s online in Tencent Inc.

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