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Feeling Machine

July 24, 2006

A new computer program addresses teenage girls’ emotional needs


BOB HIRSHON (host) :A computer counselor. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Teenage girls may soon look to computers to help them cope. Shaundra Daily, a graduate student at MIT Media Lab, is developing a program that guides them as they reflect on emotional events, much like a therapist would. First, the girls write and illustrate a real-life story. Then the program uses a technology called common sense reasoning to guess how the girls feel about the story. Finally, the girls respond to the computer by agreeing or disagreeing with the guess and weighing the strength of their emotions.

The idea is not to replace a therapist, but the idea is that, you know, sometimes you can’t reach a therapist. Could the system help in the meantime or could it help to support a counselor in their efforts rather than replace them?

Daily says her plan is to make the program available to all girls via the Web.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.