Rinna the AI social chatbot goes out and about in Japan’s countryside

Rinna – Microsoft’s AI social chatbot in Japan – is best known as a “big city” girl. After all, most of her 7 million users live, work, and play in major urban areas.

But that’s changing. She’s now  broadening her appeal across other parts of the country with “Rinna Goes Local!” – a project that has just been launched by Microsoft Japan and a group of local governments.

The project is based on smartphone games that disseminate information about, and boost interest in, regional municipalities using artificial intelligence (AI).

Five local governments Gunma Prefecture, Miyazaki Prefecture, Katori City in Chiba Prefecture, Kitakyushu City in Fukuoka Prefecture, and Saga City in Saga Prefecture  as well as one organization, the Amami Tourism & Products Federation, have joined the project.

Most AI personal assistants are simply designed to carry out user instructions But Rinna is different. She serves as a conversation partner that can interact with human users on an emotional level that can make engagement more enjoyable and productive.

Since her launch in 2015, Rinna has built a strong fan base among mainly young people in the big cities like Tokyo.  Now it’s hoped that Rinna’s more personal approach will help boost interest in regional municipalities and also widen her reputation nationwide.

“Rinna Goes Local!” has three new offerings:

  • Miyazaki Prefecture has “Rinna’s Social Studies Tour”. Its users find out about the region by taking a series of fun quizzes with the chatbot acting as an interactive guide. To make things more interesting, users can claim prizes if they answer enough questions correctly.
  • Katori City is running a game called “Rinna’s Mystery Tour” in the format of a multiple-choice story. Users visit and learn about local places and well-known local figures. The game includes stamp trail events and other features that encourage users to go out and sight-see.
  • Meanwhile, “Rinna’s Awesome Tour Map” has been adopted by Kitakyushu City, Gunma Prefecture, Saga City, and Amami Tourism & Products Federation. This service relies on AI to analyze comments and posts by users to promote less well-known visitor spots.

Looking ahead, Microsoft Japan also plans to add even more features based on AI analysis of visitor behavior data.

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