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Ambient Conversational Interfaces for Mental Health

Assessing the feasibility of using Ambient Conversational Interfaces in Support of Mental Illness

Led by Dr Simon Harper, University of Manchester

ZeroUI systems (those without a screen or visual interface are here and are increasing. Primary among these new interfaces are conversational voice assistants such as Alexa, OK Google, and Siri, and their use is expanding across third-party devices. Prominent characteristics of mental Illness can be a failure to understand reality and hearing voices that others do not. One might, therefore, see how a rise in Ambient Conversational Interfaces (ACI) could become disorientating. One might also see how there may well be benefits in using friendly auditory prompts to make suggestions and offer reassurance which could change behaviour or reduce symptoms. However, work does not yet exist which seeks to understand the problems, suggest solutions, or investigate how we might capitalise on the benefits. The possible problems associated with ACI and their solution are, however, most important to address as without this understanding leveraging the potential benefits will not be possible. This proposal seeks to contribute an understanding of these problems (and acceptable solutions). It proposes co-creation by using three patient workshops which will interact with a 'Wizard-of-Oz' Echo-Dot / Alexa system; whereby different sounds, utterances and vocalisation will be developed and 'tuned' in real-time as the group decides. It will develop an initial platform app for this co-creation activity, each group will be independent and will build on the work of the previous. Low, between group inter-rater reliability, will indicate acceptance.