BoB project

Overview

BoB, the Bozen-Bolzano Library Bot, is a multilingual chatbot we developed and deployed on the web-site of the University Library of the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano.  It has been serving library users since September 2008. As most other chatbots, it is based on simple yet robust pattern matching techniques for analyzing user input. For each question pattern that matches a user's question (or, more generally, an utterance), BoB returns a canned-text answer associated with this particular question pattern.  Our main goal when designing BoB was to create a tool that would allow us to collect Interactive Question Answering (IQA) dialogues from real, genuinely motivated users. The BoB web application (although without the repository of question patterns and system answers, which was developed by the domain experts of our library) is freely available for downloading under an open source software license at the Chatterbot-BoB code repository.

BoB's question patterns and its system answers were developed by a team of domain experts at our University Library. They cover a wide range of library information topics, e.g., opening time, lending procedures and different library services.  While being rather simplistic regarding the underlying theories of language and dialogue, it is an adequate baseline system that we developed in around one year's time, that is easy to tailor and maintain by library domain experts, and that allows us to collect realistic IQA dialogues in three languages.

The mapping from user input to system response is done on the basis of regular expression patterns; in BoB, each regular expression pattern for matching certain user input is associated with its corresponding ``canned-text'' system response.
More information on BoB's question pattern and answer repository and its question-answer mapping algorithm can be found in the BoB Dialogue Corpus documentation.


The BoB project is a joint venture between the KRDB Research Centre at the Faculty of Computer Science, and the University Library of the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano. It is coordinated by Raffaella Bernardi and Manuel Kirschner at KRDB, and Elisabeth Frasnelli and Ulrike Kugler at the University Library. Besides providing an additional service to library users, the project has lead to different research activities, and so far was the basis for one PhD thesis and two Masters theses.

The team behind BoB

A number of people have been involved in the BoB project.

KRDB Research Centre, Faculty of Computer Science, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano
  • Raffaella Bernardi (Coordinator of Interactive Question Answering research activities involving BoB)
  • Francesca Bonin (Contributed to translation of BoB knowledge base into Italian)
  • Le Thanh Dinh (Using BoB dialogue data for research in Interactive Question Answering)
  • Daniele Gobbetti (Contributed to implementation of the BoB web application)
  • Giedre Grizaite (Contributed to implementation of the BoB web application)
  • Manuel Kirschner (Technical project lead. Implementation of the BoB web application; implementation of architecture for dialogue collection; using BoB dialogue data for research in Interactive Question Answering)
  • Zorana Ratkovic (Using BoB dialogue data for research in Interactive Question Answering)
  • Giorgio Stefanoni (Contributed to translation of BoB knowledge base into Italian)
  • Evgeny Thomsen (Contributed to implementation of the BoB web application; wrote technical documentation of web application)
University Library, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano
  • Paolo Buoso (Consultant)
  • Matthias Einbrodt (Contributed to implementation of the BoB web application, and the revision of the BoB knowledge base)
  • Elisabeth Frasnelli (Project lead Library team)
  • Ulrike Kugler (Coordinator library domain experts)
Faculty of Design, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano
  • Armin Barducci (Design of BoB's avatar)
Information and Communication Technologies, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano
  • Werner Mores (Contributed to implementation of the BoB web application)
Other contributors
  • Marlene Klug (Translation of macros from German to English)
  • Beatrix Lehner (Translation of macros from German to English)
  • Chiara Ravagni (Translation of macros from German to Italian)
  • Carolin Renkewitz (Translation of macros from German to English)
  • Dajana Ross (Translation of macros from German to English)

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