Thanks to advantages in facial recognition technology and natural language analysis, virtual therapists can “understand” humans better than ever before. Developed by the Institute for Creative Technologies in Los Angeles, one virtual therapist named Ellie can measure your smile (whether it’s ironic or sincere), spot a nervous tic, and determine the meaning of your tone of voice and your posture. She will also analyze speech patterns to determine how forthcoming you are about your true thoughts and feelings.
Were humans always willing to level with their professional caretakers about their psychological state, there might not be a need for virtual therapists. Those most in need of therapy, however, such as soldiers returning home from war, are also the most likely to avoid it. But when therapy is virtual, people are more likely to divulge information that can be useful in developing treatment. In a experiment of 239 individuals who were given sessions with virtual counselor Ellie, those were told the truth (that Ellie was a computer) expressed more personal information than those told a human was controlling what Ellie said.
Pregnancy can be both a triumph and a terror, with those terrors often coming from having to deal with its social ramifications. Telling your boss and co-workers that you’re having a baby (and will be taking leave) doesn’t have to be stressful or frightening.