He’s described as six foot one, works around the clock, never rests and is a key tool in the U.S. Army’s recruiting efforts. But he doesn’t need leave or a lunch break. He isn’t stationed at any army base.
And his name’s Sgt. Star. No first name. No first name needed.
He’s an animated figure and an app helping put a friendly face on the U.S. Army’s recruiting efforts, informing people instantaneously of nearly any answer.
The U.S. army’s most powerful tool in recruiting these days may may be an animated figure or an app, appearing from goarmy.com to Facebook, known as Sgt. Star answering a wide range of questions quickly, around the clock.
While the U.S. Army offers financial incentives, one could say it’s also trying to show the soft side of soldiering – or the tough side with a soft edge via animation. And while it urges potential recruits to “talk to a recruiter,” millions are texting as well.
Sgt. Star, created by Melville-based Verint Systems, is turning a recruiting website into possibly among its most valuable weapons in winning over recruits through the ability to respond and react rapidly.
And now the screen-based sergeant and associated software have won some recognition for his or its work- although not the typical kind a soldier might get.
Verint Systems last week won an award for its creation and deployment of Sgt. Star, an animated soldier and recruiter linked with artificial intelligence software, that it says has become a key part of United States Army’s online efforts at recruiting.
The company won “Best Chatbot Solution” in 2019’s AI Breakthrough Awards for Sgt. Star, the virtual soldier and recruiter and related software that it makes to help the U.S. Army recruit or at least begin the recruiting process online.
As Verint describes it, the animated figure, who appears along with answers to a wide range of questions is a six foot one inches tall, a Caucasian character with a crew cut that is typically quite a bit smaller on mobile and computer screens.
Verint powers Sgt. Star with Verint Intelligent Virtual Assistant, a conversational AI solution that in various incarnations helps companies and the military “extend self-service options across the channels their customers prefer.”
Software can answer questions speedily, while animated figures can appeal to all audiences, including younger people who have grown up with animation as part of the real world – and may connect with this character who has the word “Star” written on his shirt.
“Hello. I’m SGT STAR, the Virtual Guide for goarmy.com,” the sergeant says online. “My training allows me to answer almost any question about what life is like in the US Army. Interacting with me is simple. Just type in your question just as though you were chatting with a live recruiter.”
Verint says this virtual sergeant meets with about 900 people a day online and has generated more than 11,000 leads for the Army’s recruiting team.
The company adds that this screen-based sergeant has an over 94 percent accuracy rate, has answered more than 16 million questions and became the first such intelligent virtual assistant in the industry to answer questions on Facebook.
The company also called the product “the first intelligent virtual assistant to answer questions by voice or text on mobile devices.”
Sgt. Star is well enough informed to field most questions: Only 3 percent of questions asked of Sgt. Star need to be routed to “live chat” through an operator.
“The Verint conversational AI platform, part of the company’s Intelligent self-service offerings, is helping organizations increase self-service capabilities that automate simple tasks and empower customers to help themselves,” Verint said in a written statement regarding its use beyond the military, “while freeing agents to deal with higher value issues and achieving new levels of excellence in customer service.”
The AI Breakthrough Awards program seek to honor excellence in AI technologies, services, companies and products. Few go to services or systems related to the military.
“The key to the 2019 award recognition goes beyond just natural language understanding to our conversational AI platform’s ability to use machine learning for extending and expanding knowledge, capabilities and language,” Nancy Treaster, Verint’s senior vice president and general manager of strategic operations, said in a statement.
She called Verint’s intelligent virtual assistant and affiliated software “a technology breakthrough we have harnessed to help our customers transform their self-service strategies, lower costs and increase revenue.”
The U.S. Army, Verint said, realized the need to rely more on tech as part of the recruiting process at a time when technology plays an increasing role in the military.
“The U.S. Army’s online and mobile presence is challenged to become a crucial element in the Army’s recruiting and communications strategy,” Verint said in a written statement. “The U.S. Army’s leadership sought a self-service solution to provide users with a personalized, engaging online experience that quickly and accurately connects users with the most relevant information.”
Enter Sgt. Star who has had a successful career and added different abilities over the year. Verint and the U.S. Army in 2006 launched what Verint calls a “no nonsense, straight-talking intelligent virtual assistant named Sgt. Star at goarmy.com.” The screen soldier only grew in capacity and importance with time.
“Sgt. Star is your virtual guide to goarmy.com,” according to the U.S. Army.”He’s here to help answer any questions you have about the Army. Just type in what you’re looking for and he’ll find the information you need – fast.”
Sgt. Star debuted in the Google Play Store in December of 2012 and later joined the App Store in July of 2014.
“The downloadable Sgt. Star app gives users the ability to have true conversations with Sgt. Star using their voice, along with touch,” according to Verint. “The Sgt. Star app has already received significant media coverage, positive user reviews and, most importantly, is making it easier than ever for recruits to explore Army life anytime and anywhere.”
Verint indicates that the character and the software have made a difference in recruiting, guiding people through the first steps of the process online.
“The impact on goarmy.com was immediate, proving Verint’s ability to improve the engagement, adoption and effectiveness of the self-service web,” according to Verint. “Sgt. Star is able to engage users in a way that is both personal and accurate, fielding common questions about pay, ROTC benefits and discreetly answering more awkward or intimate questions about male/female living conditions or paternity leave.”
There’s no need to be shy or embarrassed about any question of Sgt. Star, since he’s a creature of technology. As Verint sees it, Sgt. Star has become a very real, if virtual, part of the recruiting process.
“Sgt. Star has become the face of Army recruiting, with a viral popularity that is even spreading outside of the U.S.,” according to the company.
Verint has won other awards for its work. The company last year won for “Best Overall AI Solution” in the AI Breakthrough Awards, continuing to attract attention for its technology.
“We are clearly at a point of mainstream consensus that artificial intelligence will change the way businesses and consumers interact and work,” James Johnson, managing director, AI Breakthrough, which runs the awards, said in a statement.
More than 10,000 organizations in more than 180 countries, including over 85 percent of the Fortune 100, use Verint product.