"ZüriCityGPT" does not know everything - but a lot - about Zurich

From business start-ups to school vacations to population figures - the chatbot "ZüriCityGPT" answers questions on these and many other Zurich-related topics. The AI obtains its information from the official websites of the city of Zurich. Behind "ZüriCityGPT" is the Liip agency.

(Iconic image: Unsplash.com)

What do you have to consider if you want to open a store in Zurich? When are the next school vacations? And how old is Zurich, anyway? All these questions are answered by a new chatbot called "ZüriCityGPT"  answers. And not only that: "You can ask me anything that has to do with the city of Zurich," the chatbot advertises itself.

Zurich's websites paired with OpenAI's AI.

In the test, the chatbot's answers are mostly accurate and detailed. In the self-experiment, the editors learned, for example, the names of various contact points that could be useful when setting up a business; that the next vacations will take place "from July 17 to August 18, 2023"; and that cat litter must be disposed of "in the residual waste and not in the organic waste or in the toilet" - supplemented by recommendations to choose "biodegradable cat litter" and to dispose of it "in a sealed plastic bag to avoid odors and soiling". ZüriCityGPT" provides its answers with links to the websites that the artificial intelligence (AI) used for the answer.

The Liip agency is behind the chatbot. The project was developed during an innovation session, according to the website. The tool is not associated with the city of Zurich and represents a "proof of concept," the company clarifies in a blog post.

In the same article, the developers also provide a look behind the scenes of the Zurich AI. Not surprisingly, the ChatGPT service operated by OpenAI plays a central role there: Liip collected the information available to the AI from the official websites of the city of Zurich, stored it in its own database and prepared it for use with OpenAI's program interfaces (APIs). The questions asked on "ZüriCityGPT" are also converted to an "Embedding Vector" by OpenAI. Using the text snippets from the database that match, Liip then creates a prompt for ChatGPT. And the OpenAI AI then creates the response from this, which is displayed to the user. The detailed explanation of the process, including several links with further information, can be found at in the Liip blog post.

No way to Bern

"The bot is not infallible," Liip notes, "so we strongly advise you to check your answers against the official sites." In most cases - and provided the relevant information is available on the scanned sites - the tool provides useful answers, he adds. "We are excited about the potential of this technology to improve access to public information and hope you enjoy exploring Zurich with 'ZüriCityGPT'" , the Liip team writes in the company blog.

In the test, however, "ZüriCityGPT" also reached its limits a few times. When asked how much the "Soziokultur Mobil" offered by the city costs, the AI refers to a PDF on the website, but does not mention the prices themselves. ZüriCityGPT" also does not know how many prisons there are in Zurich; the KI lists a few, but refers to a list of the "Prison Concordat, which regulates cooperation between the cantons in Switzerland in the area of the penal system". But a search for the term "Justizvollzugskonkordat" fails - both on the website of the city and the canton of Zurich. And - for the writing editor René Jaun of the Web Week particularly saddening - when asked for the fastest way to Bern, the chatbot provides the shortest answer observed so far: "I don't know how I can help you". (René Jaun/cka)

This article was first published in Netzwoche.

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