Chat with the Michelin Man
Those wishing to exchange online pleasantries with a 113 year old can now do so, thanks to a bit of help from Michelin. The French tyre maker has introduced a new feature on its corporate website, a ‘chatbot’ feature that enables visitors to engage in a tête-à-tête with none other than Bibendum, the iconic Michelin Man. The feature, created by VirtuOz, appears on the michelin.com website’s home page and provides a human-like interface between users and the Michelin brand. In announcing the feature’s launch, the tyre maker comments that Bibendum is the first world-famous brand icon to interact with users in this way.
Conversations with the Michelin man can be held in English or French – Michelin’s two official languages – and the chatbot is programmed to converse on around 10,000 topics each month. The virtual Bibendum can answer questions both about himself and the company, and he is also well versed in helping visitors to find their way around the Michelin website.
Michelin says it considers Bibendum, who has been the Michelin brand mascot since 1898, the best possible ambassador for sharing information about the organisation, its history and its businesses. Based on technology that resembles artificial intelligence, the system behind his virtual persona will become increasingly effective as it “learns” from each new conversation.
At present, Michelin is the only tyre maker in the world using this technology. It was developed in cooperation with VirtuOz, a French-US firm that specialises in creating intelligent virtual assistants, and Cantoche, a video interface design company. Michelin says its chatbot offers a higher level of performance than the market standard in terms of the quantity of information provided, the quality of the interface and the expressive range of the animations. As a result, a conversation with the Michelin avatar generally lasts around seven minutes compared to the market average of around three minutes. This is, the tyre maker comments, because people around the world see the Michelin Man as a likeable character and are happy to have a friendly chat with him.