We’re virtually certain that Second Life, that sort of Internet world where people play with animated figurines called avatars, makes little sense. It always seemed like grown-ups playing with dolls. Well, Alaska Airlines has finally found a useful use. They’ve rolled out a virtual assistant they call Jenn, an Internet denizen who takes questions on the Alaska and Horizon website. She’s sort of an aviator avatar. With her own voice and personality, Jenn answers hundreds of common questions and helps customers book travel. People go to the ‘Ask Jenn’ link on alaskaair.com's main toolbar (righthand side), rather than trying to ‘intuit’ (or guess) where to go or struggling with a site ‘map’. Jenn is a middle ground between the internet and talking to a ‘real’ person after several real minutes on hold. Browsers type a question in Jenn's chat window and she answers verbally, asks follow-up questions if she doesn't understand, or, if she does, gives a written response and related links, and shows relevant pages.
Jenn also answers many personal questions on topics such as pets and favourite foods. Many of the postings we’ve seen about her involve queries that are rather too personal. When asked if she's married, Jenn responds, "I am not married, but you never know what my inventors are working on now." She’s no doll. Jenn’s crafted to give an efficient, attractive but not too attractive look, perhaps to deter delicate questions. On the other hand, Jenn comes from NextIT’s Active Agent, which also designed the software used to create the Sgt. Star virtual assistant who recruits for the US Army, so she should able to handle any difficult types.