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Quiz: Can You Match the Chatbot to Its Government?

“What’s in a name?” As some government agencies make their chatbots more human than ever, explore a growing cast of AI characters.

Illustration in black of a robotic face inside a speech bubble. White background.
As government agencies across the country are adopting chatbots to run more efficiently and reduce call-center staffing, there’s a wide range of how the chatbots themselves appear to the public.

Many have been assigned names and given faces.

At least one is so human-appearing that she pops up on the department’s website, blinks her brown eyes, and glances at the website user before asking if they need help.

The ruse, however, is short-lived, as the chatbot’s responses itself are limited to business. Ask her a common human question, like “How are you?” and she responds, “I do not understand; I am still learning. Please click below to visit the Resource Center.”

Does an animated avatar and bubbly name tag actually make a bot more tolerable for taxpayers? Does it save agencies more time and money if it simply looks friendly?

Government Technology compiled a list of some of the most humanized chatbots used by state and local government agencies to explore different naming strategies.

Test your knowledge with our quiz to see if you recognize any of these faces, before reading on about the science behind whether their names actually matter.
Researchers with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee wanted to find out if humanizing a chatbot impacted it’s overall performance. The 2021 study claimed that names do matter, but the results were eye-opening.

Chatbots with bland names like “Customer Service Chatbot” were deemed more likable by customers than chatbots with a human name.

“We think this is because customers figure out on their own that they aren’t interacting with a human, even if they’re not told that, and might even feel deceived,” said Scott Schanke, assistant professor of IT management, in a news release.

However, the study does suggest that personality matters. Other human characteristics like joke-telling and purposeful delays in responses to replicate human-to-human chat experiences did actually boost positive transactions in the experiment.

While it remains to be seen if a government chatbot by any other name would smell as sweet, it’s clear that many agencies across the country are embracing creativity while molding the images of their new AI teammates.
Nikki Davidson is a data reporter for Government Technology. She’s covered government and technology news as a video, newspaper, magazine and digital journalist for media outlets across the country. She’s based in Monterey, Calif.