RAKAN

WEARABLE CHAT BOT FOR MEN

Designing A Wearable Chatbot For Men

Rakan, which means ‘companion’ in the Malay Language, is a wearable chatbot that allows men to express their emotions. Users navigate open-ended questions designed to help them exercise their emotional intelligence. 

Project Timeline

January 19 - May 19​

Technology

Speech Synthesis Analysis, Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning, Google Firebase, Google SDK, Dialogflow

Wearable Technology

Bone Conductor Speaker, ISSI Bluetooth Headset, Microphone , Li-po Battery

Role

Voice U/I  Designer, Identity Designer, UX Designer

Project Type

Wearable ChatBot

 

 

WITH MISOGYNY AND THE RISE OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

HOW TO COMBAT TOXIC MASCULINITY IN THIS MODERN

DAY AND AGE?

 

THE PROBLEM/RESEARCH

TOXIC MASCULINITY

Toxic masculinity stems from stereotypical masculine gender roles that prevent men from expressing their emotions. The research shows men are thought to be the dominant ‘alpha male’ and to limit their emotional range primarily to expressions of anger. Studies have shown that in the U.S alone, 1 in 3 women has experienced harassment in their lifetime. So how can we encourage men to talk about these issues? 

SUPPRESSION OF EMOTIONS

RESEARCH

While there are men who can express their emotions, many are taught to suppress it. Some are left to simmer, it leads to an explosion of self-destructive behavior and violence against women. They're taught to find solutions, but not how to understand others or release their feelings in a safe manner.  On a personal note, I was brought up in a household where I could not express my emotions. It was always a constant battle between what I felt and what I was taught to feel.

Like some other men, I was also a part of a deeply misogynistic, male-dominated space where my male friends behaved in a sexist way, verbal abuse was common. I witnessed how they internalized the societal message that sexual objectification is innocuous. My male friends lacked empathy toward women and feel entitled to objectify women. They disturbingly see issues like harassment, verbal and physical abuse, and violence as normal. Their ignorance is an affirmation of

their masculinity.

 

HOW CAN TECHNOLOGY LIKE CHATBOTS CREATE A SAFE AND INTIMATE SPACE FOR MEN TO EXERCISE THEIR EMOTIONS?

Importance of building allies

According to Jackson Katz, an educator, author, and social theorist, he said there is a need for men to build allies to talk about gender politics. But, are there men out there who would speak for this cause?

Feeling isolated and alone

Fortunately, there are men who do want to speak out against misogyny. However, because they feel isolated and alone in their discomfort, they do not say anything. 

Programmed Chatbot

Rakan is a chatbot, chatbots are non-judgmental, and this is important especially for men who are still in the early stages of expressing themselves. According to a Californian study, people express themselves with greater freedom when interacting with systems such as chatbots. 

Research with professionals and the public

 

People express themselves with greater freedom when interacting with systems such as chatbots.

California Study

Wearable Technology

Personalized chatbot

Accessible 24/7 

Machine Learning

to respond user

THE APPROACH

DESIGN PROCESS FOR THE CHATBOT

Rakan has to be accessible to users 24/7 with an immediate response. It is also mobile hence users can use it anywhere they feel comfortable. In order to understand the user better, I conducted user research to have an in-depth knowledge of the user. I created a persona that helped me design the chatbot. 

NARROWING DOWN

THE FOCUS

While doing the research, I had to narrow down the focus, I had to understand what was the main issue and what made sense. After interviewing more people and getting feedback from there, I categorize the subject into four different themes which were the character, culture/society, actions, and platforms.  

Mind Mapping

 

EMPATHY MAP

FEELINGS

 

Isolated

Alone

Dispair

Confused

Anger

Suppressed

TASK

How to express emotions in a safe space?

Sharing the feelings of a user without the social pressure

INFLUENCES

Getting immediate attention from

someone or something

 

PAIN POINTS

Unable to express emotions freely

Felt suppressed by society or freinds/family

limited tools to address toxic masculinity

OVERALL GOAL

Allow Men to express their vulnerable emotions in a safe intimate space

CONVERSATION DESIGN

Since the conversation is pre-written and validated by a mental health practitioner, it is crucial to design a conversation that sounds natural.  Designing of the conversation took longer than designing the visuals. It was important that the conversation between the chatbot and the user made logical sense and the reciprocal conversation is smooth.

Validation with Mental health practitioner

CONVERSATION DESIGN WITH

MACHINE LEARNING

Rakan is built on Actions on Google, It uses Dialogflow to handle understanding what the user says, Firebase Cloud Functions for backend code and Firebase Database to save data of the user. The conversation responses use SSML (Speech Synthesis Markup Language) to adapt the nuances of a human conversation. AutoML, Natural Language Processing Sentiment Analysis was used to provide insights and relationships in the text. The project is written in JavaScript, using Actions on Google’s Node.js client library. A bone conduction transducer is used to integrate with the wearable.

Machine Learning Process

CONVERSATION FLOW

CHATBOT

THE CHATBOT PERSONALITY

The chatbot personality plays an important role, however, unlike other chatbots that has predetermined design for the chatbot, users are able to create their own chatbot and this is done by giving prompts to users how the chatbot should look like. 

Using Python3 which manage aftereffects scripts for the gifs, it gives the user the opportunity to build a physical character of their choice. Once the user has completed a series of questions that were asked on the physical appearance of the chatbot, the user will be greeted by their personalized chatbot they imagined it to be. The experience is intentional, people often project human traits onto everything. Building a chatbot makes it more relatable and relevant to the user.

Communicating with Chatbot

WEARABLE DESIGN

DESIGNING THE WEARABLE

Initial sketches and mood board

The initial idea was to get a full immersive experience, however, after much consideration based on interviews, this idea was shelved. 

First idea iteration of a physical piece

Rakan comes with a wearable, it creates convenience for users to use. It uses a bone conductor. This will allow the user to experience the conversation in their own head, so talking to Rakan becomes more introspective and internal.

Parts of the wearable

The wearable technology you adapt on technology such as a bone conductive speakers (conduction of sound to the inner ear through the bones of the skull ) with a small microphone for users to speak into with an ISSC Bluetooth headset which can connect to any smart devices, all concealed within the cap. 

Users trying the wearable

EXPERIENCING RAKAN

THE DETAILS

While the user hardly looks at the phone to have a conversation with the chatbot, every detail is put into measure when designing the interface for Rakan. 

Users are greeted with the introduction page which requires the user to say as prompted.

SMALL

GESTURES

LISTENING

COLOR

ILLUSTRATIONS

small gestures to indicate a  human body movement

chatbot changes its body language when listening to the user

color difference text between the chatbot and the user

soft color for all the illustrations providing calm visuals for the user 

After going through prompted questions to build a personal character chatbot, users will then be able to begin the conversation.

The chatbot is animated which gives the user a perspective that the chatbot is constantly giving a listening ear.

USER TESTING

WHAT I LEARNED

There was much positive feedback given while user testing. Many mentioned that they were slightly confused whether they were supposed to keep the phone while conversing with the chatbot or look at the screen. The wearable was well received, the bone conductive speakers made testers felt like there was a voice speaking in their head which was the motive of the wearable. 

PROTOTYPE

Contact Me!

Interactive Visual Designer, Art Director

Currently based in New York.

Drop me a mail at hello@ridwanmadon.com

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