Cognitive Business: This Founder’s AI Sends You Gifts

In this Cognitive Business interview, we meet with Rabi Gupta, founder of Boost VC backed Evabot.AI, a bot that helps you send gifts in less than 10 seconds.

I took a closer look at Eva and I was quite impressed with what I saw. Eva communicates with you via Slack, email, or Web chat interface. The only two pieces of information Eva needs from the giftee is an email address and a gift type. Then Eva reaches out to the giftee. She has a conversation with the giftee, asks for gift preferences, and puts in a gift order along with a cool local surprise. The gifter doesn’t have to worry about getting the right gift; nor does the giftee need to be bothered by an unwanted gift. We live very busy lives today and Eva helps let others know that we “care” and Eva understands that we are busy, not emotionless!

A downside: Eva only works in San Francisco and Bay Area. But Rabi assured me that it’s only a matter of time before they expand.

Photo by Rabi Gupta

Where did the idea of Eva originate?

For all the good things technology has helped us achieve, it is also blamed for making us a bit more cold and look a bit more emotionless. But in reality we want to show others that we care, we are just a bit busy! Gifting is something which makes other feel that you care. It’s fundamental to human nature. So we thought how can take 10 seconds out of a busy person’s life and help them build better relationships. With anyone and at anytime. This idea drove me to AI, Chatbot and eventually to Eva.

Tech can bring people closer. — Rabi Gupta

In the business world, how is AI gift giving useful?

People do business with people they like and so, it all boils down to building relationships. Sending a gift can be a way of starting a relationship (or making it better).

Say you have a meeting with someone. They helped you out. You want to say thank you with a small gift but you don’t know them too well. So, you contact your AI gifting agent and she takes care of it for you. An AI gifting agent can help figure out what’s awkward asking about and give a gift that the giftee will like. It also helps in keeping all this information about the receiver “private” as you would not like to share your preferences with someone who you just met.

Gifting AIs, from our experience, work for all businesses, small and big. So far, top executives in companies like Silicon Valley Bank, Yahoo, Facebook, Amplitude, and Slack are using Eva.

Photo by Rabi Gupta

How do you make a gifting AI sustainable?

While sending the gift we limit the gift options. We have 4 major categories of gifting such as: beer, chocolate, coffee and wine. When you send someone from a gift category we allow the giftee to pick what they like in that category (for e.g. red or white wine). Once Eva has chatted and knows the preferences we send our happiness agents to procure the gift and add a local gift as a surprise (which can be cookie or cupcake or a local book). The happiness agent then delivers the gift and takes a photo of the gifting experience.

Photo by Rabi Gupta

What role does AI play in your product and how does it work?

Right now, our AI agent is using natural language processing. The bot goes through a series of questions, basic logic, cleans data and feeds it into a learning engine. Then machine learning kicks in with price points, types of gifts, and ultimately personalized gifting. What we are doing is basically learning from a sender’s network, their spending habits and trying to match it with a receiver’s desires and tastes. Idea is to become so efficient in future that Eva would be able to do real time back and forth with gifter and giftee and will get the perfect gift to the giftee.

Why is it a good idea to build an AI bot that integrates with slack?

For us, it all started because we noticed that many companies use Slack and we noticed that employees wanted to send their peers gifts. The other reason being Slack is built keeping chatbots in mind. If you use Slack the bots are always there and you can call them for your help whenever you want. Slack has nailed that beautifully and they are very open to feedback and develop new features really fast. An AI bot can keep learning from the interactions that involve gifting and as Slack grows we can grow along.

What technology is your AI bot built on?

Eva uses basic NLP logics (Google’s Syntaxnet) to understand an email conversation if a person Cc’s Eva bot. Eva is hosted on Amazon Web Services and mostlyuses Java Script, and an in-house chat bot. In the future, maybe we’ll use Watson once we have gathered enough data on users’ tastes and preferences

How can we learn more about you and Eva?

You can reach us at Evabot.ai. Or email me: rabi@vizzi.io.

“Cognitive Business” is an interview series featuring prominent figures in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) world. Written by Lolita M Taub and written for C-suite and Line-of-Business seeking to address business challenges and goals using the smartest tech.


Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on September 20, 2016.