We’re on the Cusp of Changing How we Treat one of America’s Most Ignored Health Problems

Published: May 26, 2016
Category: News

A Business Insider story on new ways to treat mental illness featured ICT’s SimSensei prototype and an interview with Jon Gratch, ICT’s director of virtual human research.
Gratch discussed the making of SimSensei and his research findings into why it easier to be honest online.
One reason, he suggests in the story, is because we feel more anonymous there (whether we actually are is another matter).
“People are more honest on web forms,” says Gratch. “They just feel safer disclosing things that way,” he said.
To Gratch, the future of therapy lies between these two important things: anonymity and rapport. And he thinks a “virtual person” might be the part of the solution.
The article describes SimSensei’s AI-driven rapport capabilities, stating that Sensei can differentiate between when someone is asking a question and when they are making a statement. And, based on certain words she’s been trained to pick up, Sensei can appropriately respond with an expression that either conveys understanding — like an “Uhuh” or a nod — or a sense of empathy, like an “Oh I’m sorry.” To ask a question, Sensei leans in.