What happens when you talk to a machine to help you cope with depression or fears you may be having? Is it better or worse than talking with a human? Companies like Seven Cups of Tea are creating ways to use text messaging and bots to offer more accessible, and possibly, more effective mental health services.
CHRIS REESE: Hi, I’m Chris Reese from JUICE Pharma Advertising and the question I have is can we trust our mental health to a machine?
So can we trust our mental health to a machine? It’s an intriguing question for artificial intelligence. AI is a hot topic here at again at South By, and it’s an especially interesting question because there are several companies that are offering online counseling and therapy services using artificial intelligence and bots to address a gap in mental health services.
So another question to ask is why would you talk to a machine to deal with some mental health issues and questions? What are the advantages of talking to a bot instead of a real person if you’re struggling with something like depression or feeling lonely?
Well, it’s interesting because there are definitely certain advantages to some of these online services and one is that it’s 24-hour access. Again, problems and struggles arise any time of the day, not just something that happens into a 9-to-5 framework, so there’s much easier access from that standpoint.
Another thing is that, you know, it’s a lot of work and a lot of effort, and can be intimidating to make an appointment with a counselor and to go see someone face-to-face. Again, with an online bot where you’re typing in a question and beginning a dialogue, it can happen immediately, at the spur of the moment. And again, that robot is nonjudgmental, so a lack of human interaction can actually be an advantage.
7 Cups of Tea is an interesting online counseling and therapy site and service that uses a bot named Noni that can act as a sounding board, initiate a conversation, but that can also be used to help you connect with a trained listener or a professional therapist and counselor.
So what they’re really doing is using a mix of machine and bot with humans, with counselors to a–offer the best mix for mental health services. And what’s interesting is they see that machine, that bot ultimate goal is to actually help you become more human and to help you interact with humans more.