The EcoBot aims to leverage ChatGPT's potential through EcoMap Technologies' platform. (Image created by Canva's AI Image Generator)

EcoMap Technologies ecosystem ontologist Ben Carsley’s partner recently tested the company’s upcoming AI chatbot product as two different characters: one Black startup founder and one white.She asked the model to recommend local funding resources. It proposed opportunities that were primarily for people of color but highlighted a key distinction in its response to the white character.

“It said, however, they’re an inclusive community and would be open to anyone,” Carsley said. “That was interesting, getting a model to understand that there’s a caveat. I’ve never seen a language model provide caveats in that way. They tend to be overbearing and overconfident in their own answers and that’s just because of the way they were trained.”

Baltimore-based EcoMap Technologies, a 2022 RealLIST Startup, created a platform allowing institutions such as universities, entrepreneurial organizations and government agencies to digitally map information about their respective ecosystems’ participants and resources. Growing to nearly 30 employees since its 2019 founding, the company now aims to capitalize on the rise of AI-powered technology through a new product that’s poised to launch this summer.

The project is called the “EcoBot,” which is essentially a chatbot version of the company’s primary platform. To launch it, EcoMap is collaborating with the ever-popular AI chat service ChatGPT.

Cofounder and CEO Pava LaPere said the surging popularity of ChatGPT — which amassed more than 1 million users within the first five days of its release — inspired the idea for EcoBot in late February.

“The whole purpose of EcoMap is to make it easier to access information about all of the ecosystems around us,” she said. “When we started to see chatbots come up, it became very obvious that the easiest way to access information is to just converse with the technology.”

Building this service has offered a unique challenge since EcoMap’s main product requires that users navigate through filters to access information.

“The data is semantically correct, but it’s not correct from an ecosystem perspective,” LaPere said. “It may totally make up an accelerator that doesn’t exist or give you one that only operated years ago. We realized that we had an awesome opportunity to marry the very powerful curated ecosystem-specific data that we were already getting for our customers and putting it into a chatbot, therefore removing nearly all navigational challenges to getting the information you need.”

Carsley was familiar with this sort of technology due to his background in international language processing models and basic Python NLQ libraries. But this project still presented a massive challenge since the team must parse through mountains of data sets to refine the bot’s algorithm.

“The volume of data that we’re working with is unprecedented,” said Solomon Abiola, EcoMap’s head of engineering. “We’re talking hundreds of thousands of data points and the fact that this data is constantly changing. Not all data is good data. If we’re not cleaning and parsing and optimizing, your model is only going to be as good as the data that’s coming in.”


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *