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Published: 26 Sep, 2019

AI project on digital companions

NEWS Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation has granted SEK 96 million to be shared by 16 research projects studying the impact of artificial intelligence and autonomous systems on our society and our behavior. Helena Lindgren at Umeå University is research leader for one of the projects with focus on the role of digital companies in managing stress.

Text: Ingrid Söderbergh

More and more often, we encounter digital assistants intended to help us with different services such as banking and online purchases. These are based on artificial intelligence, but so far, the functionality is limited and mainly used for simple tasks. Even so, people still get an impression of the assistant as a social actor.

As the technology evolves and becomes more advanced, the digital assistant may move to a more influential role, such as coach, everyday company or companion, for example to assist in behavioral changes to improve the user’s health. There are special ethical aspects to consider here, and it is unclear how a person will relate to a social digital companion.

In this project, led by Helena Lindgren at Umeå University, special focus is placed on digital companions used to manage stress-related ill-health and exhaustion, as these are a growing problem for an increasingly large part of the population.

The expected outcome is an increased understanding for how socially intelligent digital companions can affect people’s emotional well-being, and for the digital companion’s potential role in managing stress in everyday activities.

The project is part of the national program WASP-HS, founded by Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation.