We are increasingly being exposed to digital discussion partners, from customer service chatbots to Siri, Alexa and other virtual assistants. Chatbots use dialogue systems to provide the user’s input with an appropriate response. These digital discussion partners can also be used for coaching in health-related topics.
Chatbots offer several advantages: their costs are limited and they are primarily able to carry out personal conversations. Think of chatbots that can recognise voices, understand written language or even be used as ‘virtual social partners’. Nevertheless, the trust being placed in chatbots and the use of chatbots is limited. This is mainly because their responses are still often seen as non-human, and because they cannot take part in lengthier conversations. Conversations with chatbots are still considered to be boring and impersonal, which limits their employability in an educational or support capacity.
Quitting smoking and safe sex
This project, which will combine insights from the social sciences and the humanities, primarily aims to develop and test chatbots that are geared towards long-term commitment. Think of chatbots that can build long-term, personal relationships with their discussion partners. Such conversations are geared towards different domains, in which each has unique requirements. A conversation about ‘quitting smoking’ is technologically and linguistically altogether different to talking about safe sex.
The project will also examine whether and how people are able to build social relationships with more advanced chatbots. The project will ultimately investigate the ethical implications of such conversations with chatbots, which will be geared towards health issues.