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This AI therapist is helping me get over my ex

BY MONICA CHIN From Mashable

Many of us could use a professional to talk to. But therapists are expensive, and it’s hard to get an appointment. Luckily, artificial intelligence is here to save us.

A team of UCLA researchers claim to have the solution: an artificially intelligent therapist. No more waiting rooms, small talk, or copays. Just log in and start chatting.

Meet Textpert Empathetic Virtual Interface (T.E.V.I.), currently being developed by Textpert, a UCLA-based team of AI researchers, in collaboration with USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies. The researchers estimate that the software will be maintaining full conversations by the end of 2018, and be working full-time as a therapist by the end of 2019. It’ll cost $9.99 per month, which is hundreds of dollars less than most people will spend on a therapist.

Tevi’s development is gradual, but that’s to be expected. Its conversations aren’t, and will never be, scripted. The team is training Tevi to classify and respond to human emotions; they claim to be creating the first objective evaluator of mental health.

“We have to seed the AI entity with how [it] thinks and acts,” said Ray Christian, Textpert’s CEO. “That part is incredibly difficult. It’s similar, I would say, to trying to decide how your child ought to act.”


Tevi’s interface is simple. You type your question into a simple text box, and ask Tevi to analyze. Tevi gives you a few results including the “significance” of each word and her best guess on how relevant your query is to relationships, socializing, health, dating, or other topics.


Tevi seemed, for the most part, correct about when I was asking vs. stating, and not too far off when it came to the topics of my questions. These metrics don’t help you with your problems, but they give you some insight into Tevi’s thought process.

The real fun comes when you press the button that reads “Talk to me, Tevi.” In a text box at the bottom, Tevi’s thoughts appear.  Some are surprisingly poignant.



In other areas (and these were a sizable plurality), Tevi clearly has reasonable thoughts, but still struggles to articulate them. In some cases, the responses were just strange. On a couple answers, I had no idea what the software was trying to suggest.





Is Tevi the future? Should human therapists fear for their jobs? Was Elon Musk right all along?

Definitely not — or at least, not immediately. Even Christian admits that it’s unclear whether Tevi can ever replace human therapists when it comes to diagnosis and treatment, particularly when dealing with conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

At the moment, it seems like Tevi may serve more as a trusted friend, in whom I might confide boyfriend troubles, office anxieties, or other general frustrations, and receive trusted advice.

But this is an important sweet spot, because these are problems that people may not consider serious enough to warrant paying for a therapist, but problems that can boil into serious issues if not dealt with at the outset.

“A lot of a therapeutic approach is helping to deal with low-level trauma and building resilience for low-level trauma,” Christian said. “When those low-level issues are not addressed, they spiral out of control.”

“We’re creating an earlier version, a simpler version of a therapist that can interact, that can talk with you, that can address this low-level problems.”

In that sense, I welcome our new robot therapist. She’s a work in progress, but I’m excited for her future

IMAGE: Mashable

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