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Making SAD Home: An exploration into developing an Alexa with depression

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While chatbots are a space that has been researched and worked on for the past few decades, a renewed industry interest in artificial intelligence (AI) and the popularity of devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home has pushed them back into the spotlight. According to Edison Research and National Public Media, an estimated 21 per cent of US households now use a voice-enabled smart device in some capacity. Similarly, the popularity of texting, technology-mediated communication and social media has laid the groundwork for the return of chatbots. Chatbots are even making inroads into areas like mental health, where they are being used to address the growing mental health concerns of wellness and loneliness. While this is an interesting development, the conversation of what is considered useful in a mental health chatbot is still very much driven by commercial applications. This article considers using natural language processing and networking technologies to explore a more DIY approach to mental-health-based chatbots, by documenting the development of an Alexa that experiences depression.

Keywords: Alexa; mental health; natural language processing; prototyping; reflection; speculative futures

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 000000009538916XOCAD University

Publication date: April 1, 2020

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  • Virtual Creativity (VCR) is an academic peer-reviewed journal focusing on creativity in online virtual worlds and other related platforms where the virtual is examined as a central theme in contemporary media art practices and applied contexts. Pieces exploring the subject of digital creativity are sought from the broad perspective of Art, Science and Technology, in what is a widespread field of discourse. One focus of the journal is an examination of creative activity in the metaverse - from art, design and architecture, to research and education, to play and entertainment. Additionally, Virtual Creativity seeks to engage with ways in which the virtual reflects upon the implications of the physical.
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