First direct to trial interactive agent technology

First direct to trial interactive agent technology

UK telephone and Internet bank first direct has begun a four-month trial of an interactive animated help agent over its Web site.

The agent, named Cara, is described as a 3D interactive animation which moves, talks and gestures in response to user enquiries. The idea is to provide short-cuts to complex queries and give verbal responses where long bodies of text are not helpful.

For the trial, Cara will appear in the smartmortgage section of the bank's Website and will be available to customers and non-customers alike.

Jonathan Etheridge, head of e-futures at first direct, believes the agent will help the bank to inject some personality into the online banking experience, while improving customer service.

He says: "Cara is the first step on a road which I ultimately see will bridge the gap between the relatively impersonal world of the Internet and the much richer experience of a real person on the phone."

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