VAUGHN DAVIS: Friends? Contraception? There’s an app for that

24/07/2017

Too Long Didn't Listen: July 24th 2017 

Friends? Contraception? There’s an app for that!

In the 2013 science fiction film “Her,” a man installs a super intelligent operating system into his computer and phone, and before long falls in love with it.

In 2017, director Spike Jonze’s vision is very close to coming true.

We looked at two apps this week that use artificial intelligence (short version: very capable computer programmes that use natural language to speak to you and learn as they go) to get you know you and become very convincing virtual friends.

The first one, Replika, was developed by a woman whose friend died. She missed her text chats with him so wondered if an artificial intelligence chatbot version could help take his place.

Replika runs on your Android or iPhone and communicates with you by chat message (there’s no sexy voice… yet). There’s nothing sexual about it, but it does tend to steer the conversation towards the places you might go with a very close friend. And even though you know it’s a computer, it’s easy to find yourself treating your Replika as a real person… especially if you’re used to text chatting to your real friends on your phone.

The second app we looked at was the excellently named Woebot. Woebot has been developed by a team at Stanford University and uses the same sorts of therapy techniques your friendly neighbourhood psychologist might to understand you and ideally make you feel a bit better about the world.

Woebot is a Facebook Messenger chatbot, so you don’t need a special app. Just go to the Woebot site and follow your nose.

Does it work? Early days, but chatting to Woebot feels mostly real, and studies have shown elevated mood among people who’ve used the service.

And if all this seems a bit whacky and weird… you probably shouldn’t be talking to your cat or dog either (:

From Higgs’ Boson to contraception: new app “as effective as the pill.”

Ovulation-timing contraception methods have been around forever, but Natural Cycles takes it to the next level. Developed by Nobel Prize winning physicist Elina Berglund, the app analyses temperature readings from a very sensitive thermometer to to “determine whether you are fertile or not and calculate your red and green days.”

And according to the European Union, it works. While the app’s 93% effectiveness may seem low compared to the contraceptive pill’s 97%, the pill’s “real world” effectiveness when you take into account user error sits behind the app, at 92%.

Of course, the one thing no app will ever do is protect you and your partner against sexually transmitted diseases – so it that’s a concern for you then don’t ditch the condoms any time soon.

And I know you don’t need me to tell you this… but I’m not a doctor so you should consult one before making any important health decisions. Not everyone supports the app makers’ claims, and this article gives a good overview of some of the criticisms Natural Cycles has received. 

Vaughn Davis hosts Sunday Social 9on RadioLIVE Sunday's at 7pm