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Choose Chicago Introduces AI Tool Named After Beloved City Attraction – Forbes

Chicago’s “The Bean” is the inspiration behind a new AI visitors tool.

Patrick L. Pyszka/City of Chicago

The Cloud Gate, the famous reflective sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park, is a popular photo taking spot in The Windy City. However, it’s often referred to by its nickname, “The Bean.”

But now, this pet name has taken on a whole new meaning – as a virtual travel advisor. 

Earlier in September 2021, Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism board, announced the release of a new AI-powered tool named “The Bean” that is operating through Choose Chicago’s website. Accessible 24/7, this digital version of “The Bean” serves as a visitor’s guide where it can answer common questions from out of towners. 

Need help with figuring out where to go eat? How can you get around, maybe the L-train or on your feet? “The Bean,” a conversational tool, can help. 

This 2.0 style “The Bean” came about amid the pandemic through a partnership between Choose Chicago and the Knight Lab, which is part of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The school’s students were also involved in the design of “The Bean.” 

A new “The Bean” AI tool provides answers about Chicago based on direct questions or keywords.

Choose Chicago

In a media release putting a fun spin on how the original Bean “got involved” with this platform, Choose Chicago’s Board Chair Glenn Eden shared how this tech tool works as a marketing platform. 

“Getting visitors to Chicago is Choose Chicago’s core mission, and with today’s new hybrid, always-on world, we knew that we needed to build solutions to help visitors make the most of their Chicago journey,” stated Glenn.  

Later on in the release, Glenn touted how the original The Bean would be effective in inspiring a go-to guide. “Given the millions of visitors that come to Millennium Park each year, we knew that our friend, The Bean, would be a great resource to know what is on the mind of visitors, so we asked The Bean to be our partner as well,” Glenn said.

In turn, the Millennium Park Foundation, the nonprofit who manages the park, got in on the fun of promoting the involvement of the original “bean.”

“The Bean” AI tool can also pre-populate subjects to look up.

Choose Chicago

“We were surprised, and quite frankly, a little alarmed, when The Bean came to us and asked if we would be open to this new idea, after all we did not know The Bean had become sentient,” said Scott Stewart, the foundation’s executive director. “However, after talking with Choose Chicago, we realized that our friend, The Bean, could be a great help to all of the visitors to Chicago so we are happy to be part of this project.”

The original bean, or actually officially known as the Cloud Gate, was unveiled in 2004. 

The Cloud Gate was designed by Indian born sculptor Anish Kapoor, and it is his first permanent public outdoor work in the United States. What gives the Cloud Gate, or okay, the Bean, its shiny silver surface is inspired by liquid mercury but is touchable.  

But let’s go back to the new AI Bean. To use this tool to find out more about what to see and do in Chicago, first log onto explorewiththebean.com. Then, on the lower right hand side of the screen, look for a bean-shaped symbol. Click on the symbol to get started. With “The Bean” popping up, type a specific question at the bottom and the AI tool will bring up answers or suggested info tabs.

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