WEARABLE CHAT BOT FOR MEN
Designing A Wearable Chatbot For Men
New York University – ITP Thesis 2019
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.
January 19 - May 19
Speech Synthesis Analysis, Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning, Google Firebase, Google SDK, Dialogflow
Bone Conductor Speaker, ISSI Bluetooth Headset, Microphone , Li-po Battery
Voice U/I Designer, Identity Designer, UX Designer
WITH MISOGYNY AND THE RISE OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
HOW TO COMBAT TOXIC MASCULINITY IN THIS MODERN
DAY AND AGE?
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
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
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.
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.
to respond user
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.
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.
How to express emotions in a safe space?
Sharing the feelings of a user without the social pressure
Getting immediate attention from
someone or something
Unable to express emotions freely
Felt suppressed by society or freinds/family
limited tools to address toxic masculinity
Allow Men to express their vulnerable emotions in a safe intimate space
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 Process
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
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
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 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.
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.