Chatting about cryptocoins

Many people have no doubt heard of alternative currencies like Bitcoin, but most of us still feel very reluctant about actually using them. This evening, Wednesday April 25, a meeting about blockchain – the technology behind cryptocoins - is being held on the TU/e campus. PhD candidate Minha Lee will present the results of the study done by USE students of Brobot, a chatbot for users of cryptocoins.

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Bridging Blockchain Eindhoven (BBE) is a think-tank of people with a shared interest in blockchain, the technology on which alt-coins, like the well-known Bitcoin, rely. This evening on the TU/e campus, this group is holding its third meeting on this subject, paying special attention to the financial side of the technology.

The Korean PhD candidate Minha Lee of Human-Technology Interaction got involved with this group towards the end of February when, together with students of the USE course The Human in Technology, she attended a BBE meeting at Fontys. “For that course, for which I act as a supervisor, students studied Brobot, a chatbot that can help users to manage their portfolio of cryptocoins.” Lee knew the Amsterdam brains behind this chatbot, which can be contacted through Facebook Messenger, Telegram and Slack, and which gives information about the user's digital assets and more general news about the exchange rates of various cryptocurrencies.

New apps

Brobot is still in the startup phase, so its makers find feedback from potential users very useful, explains Lee, and for her students it made a nice case study. “Chatbots are emerging rapidly at the moment. Typically, most people stick to the apps they are familiar with, and are less and less inclined to install new apps. But by using chatbots, you can add new functionalities to your device without having to install any new apps.”

What's more, cryptocoins are an excellent example of a technology that many people are still wary of, because they don't understand it. So Lee's students studied not only whether users find Brobot appealing to work with, but also whether the chatbot actually helped people gain a better understanding of the technology.


“It turned out that querying for information, such as news on cryptocurrency or market signals, turned out to be easier than had been anticipated,” says the doctoral candidate. “At least, for the TU/e students who acted as test subjects. But they also indicated that they still preferred Google when it came to searching for this type of information. Because it's a little faster.” Only integrating what is called the API key, used by the user for authentication, proved really difficult. “Only one test subject managed that unaided.” But that is not really a problem, Lee stresses. "Integration of an API key should not be too easy. The user has to consider carefully whether he or she trusts a chatbot to track your portfolio." 

Lee thinks it is important to show that projects like this have something to offer both students and fledgling entrepreneurs, she says. “This university has a long, rich history of collaborating with industry, but mostly with large companies. I think that, alongside that, more contacts with startups can also be especially valuable.”

The Bridging Blockchain Meetup takes place tonight, Wednesday April 25, in Auditorium Room 11 at 19.00. Afterward, there are drinks at Zwarte Doos.

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