News / Calgary

OK Google meets Calgary AI

Local Hackathon winners imbed Calgary databases into Google AI

Team members David Winiarski, Stephen Wensley and Logan Stewart

Courtesy Stephen Wensley

Team members David Winiarski, Stephen Wensley and Logan Stewart

Talking to your phone – it’s the future.

The winners of this year’s Calgary Regional Hackathon certainly think so – they built a voice AI that’s implemented through Google Assistant to help search through City of Calgary databases.

Now, they’re already getting invites from other Alberta municipalities to carry the idea forward.

The purpose behind the annual Hackathon is to encourage Calgary developers to use the city’s open data in a unique and interesting way.

Stephen Wensley, David Winiarski and Logan Stewart took the challenge as a way to improve accessibility to that information.

“We found that going through Calgary.ca could be very tedious to find the information you needed,” said Wensley. “There’s hundreds of thousands of pages of information, then the city has a lot of open data sets they provide, however, there are several hundred and if you want to find a simple fact or, for example, which community would be the best fit for you to live in, it would be a lot of research.”

They started with creating a system that asked about the industry you worked in, what activities you were into, and other information, to determine what community you should live in.

With the goal being to search through data as easily as possible, they came up with the idea of integrating it into Google Assistant through what they call YYC AI. The finished product will allow you to fire up your phone and ask, “OK Google, talk to YYC AI.”

The AI is able to answer questions about work, recreation and social interests, specifically using the immense data available through the City of Calgary.

Wensley feels voice AI is much more fluid that typing out queries into a search engine.

“I think it really simplifies the user experience and I think it makes more truthful kind of search queries, because people can be more natural with what they’re searching for,” he explained.

The team has already been invited by the Town of Cochrane is see how they can use the technology, and they hope to receive the opportunity to carry the AI further and help it grow.

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