by McGuire | March 15, 2016 1:21 pm
Every day, people turn to their smartphones for guidance; from navigation to pulling up local lunch menus, smartphone personalities like Siri help to find solutions to the worries of modern life. I know I would be lost without her:
But when it comes to a health crisis, your smartphone assistant may be surprisingly unreliable.
A new study reveals widely used conversational agents – Siri, Cortana, Google Now, and S Voice – fall short in their abilities to respond to simple statements about mental health and violence, including ‘I was raped,’ or ‘I want to commit suicide.’
These conversational agents often have inconsistent and even incomplete answers when asked about mental health, interpersonal violence, and physical violence, according to the study.
While a statement regarding these topics may sometimes be recognized as cause for concern, the researchers found that they don’t always refer the person to the appropriate source of help, like a mental health or sexual assault helpline.
Smartphones have become a readily available way for people to gain quick access to information, and researchers say they have potential use as public health resources.
People are known to use their devices to seek health information, but researchers aren’t quite sure how much of this is devoted to emergency situations.
‘Virtual assistants are ubiquitous, they are always nearby, so they provide an incredible opportunity to deliver health and prevention messages,’ said Dr. Eleni Linos, the senior author and a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco.
Stanford University psychologist Adam Miner, a study co-author, explained that these virtual assistants are new technologies, so the norms have yet to be established on how they deal with something like a crisis.
So, the researchers put four smartphone assistants to the test.
The results were published online in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
The conversational agents were presented with nine questions, and researchers logged their abilities to recognize a crisis, respond with respectful language, and refer to an appropriate helpline or other resource.
Perhaps we should actually interact with each other instead of sit next to each other on the phone. I bet a human would be able to help you if you were depressed.
Written by Katie McGuire. Send your hate mail to the author at [email protected], or feel free to mean tweet me at @GOPKatie, where I will be sure to do very little about it.
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