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Sidekick: Capabilities and Limitations
Sidekick: Capabilities and Limitations

In this article, you'll learn what you can and can't do with Sidekick.

Jennifer Curtis avatar
Written by Jennifer Curtis
Updated over a week ago

Sidekick is both new and a work in progress. Because of this, the list of Sidekick's capabilities will continue to grow, so please check back often. (And keep up with all the latest enhancements here.)

Capabilities

Sidekick is built to understand and answer your questions about the communities you're interested in, using data from mySidewalk's own library for accurate responses.

Its current capabilities include:

Sidekick uses our extensive community data library to answer fact-based questions about places. For example, here are some of the kinds of requests that Sidekick can handle:

  • Tell me the life expectancy for ZIP code 64131

  • What’s the diabetes rate in Manhattan, KS?

  • How many vacant houses are for rent in Jackson County, MO?

  • What’s the median household income for Black residents in Kansas City, KS?

Sidekick can offer data recommendations, such as what data to use when:

  • Applying for grants (based on a description of the grant)

  • Conducting needs assessments

  • Understanding health disparities

Sidekick can compare and rank places based on:

  • A specific metric (e.g. median household income, graduate degrees)

  • A particular data topic (e.g. access to healthcare, affordability)

Sidekick can refine or adapt responses based on:

  • Additional information

  • Context (e.g., what it is needed for and why)

  • Instructions that you provide

Sidekick can calculate proportions or percentages:

  • Sidekick can normalize data and, therefore, return proportions or percentages.

  • In some situations, this is not possible (e.g., if the data returned is ratio data).

Sidekick can show you the steps it took to answer your queries

  • Click "Show work" when Sidekick responds to a query to see the list of steps it took, and expand each step for additional information including things like:

    • The exact search terms it used to search the data library

    • The exact location for which it retrieved data values

    • A link to the data source page for data used in a response

Limitations (What we’re working to improve)

Sidekick is early in its development, and we have a lot of exciting features and enhancements planned for the future. However, it is important to note how Sidekick is currently limited:

At times, Sidekick might be slow.

  • Even simple queries require a lot of steps to find, retrieve, and construct an answer. In addition, sometimes, the third-party AI tool we use experiences unforeseen issues or slowness.

Currently, Sidekick will only return the most current data available in our data library, Wherehouse.

  • This means that historical and projection data are not currently available.

  • We plan to resolve this issue.

Sidekick will occasionally answer questions with irrelevant information or data, and can erroneously fail to retrieve available information.

  • We are actively working to reduce these issues. When this happens, we ask that you please submit feedback. (Here’s how.)

  • Always fact-check Sidekick’s responses if you have reason to believe they could be erroneous.

  • At this time, we do not recommend that you use Sidekick to retrieve data for important documentation (for example, data used in a grant application) – unless you are able to fact-check it first (for example, using Seek.)

  • If you believe that data is available but Sidekick is having trouble retrieving it, you can ask it to double-check its work. (As odd as it might sound, this can work!)

Sidekick cannot do complex calculations.

  • We will improve Sidekick’s ability to answer more complex questions over time.

Sidekick cannot generate data visualizations.

  • This feature is necessary to communicate data findings and tell compelling data stories.

  • This is a capability that we would like to release soon.

Sidekick cannot keep a conversation history.

  • We plan to release this core enhancement of the assistant soon.

Sidekick cannot allow you to upload your own documents or data.

  • Sidekick’s responses are currently limited to mySidewalk’s data library.

  • This is a capability that we would like to release soon.

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