Are Nonverbal Cues Essential in Cognitive Relationships Embedded in AI?
“Smile more, make eye contact, first impressions matter” are some of the daily messages I hear in the business school. Our society currently values nonverbal cues more than verbal communication in conversations. However, as we invest in cognitive systems, we enter environments where people are most open in purely writing environments. These environments are chatbots such as Replika.
Replika is a messaging application that replicates the user through conversations via chats that the bot and user have. Ranging from casual topics such as favorite foods to deeper questions such as levels of happiness, Replika not only creates an outward facing copy of the person, but also a personal communication tool that the user can become friends with. In fact, people who have used the product state that:
Which sounds incredibly similar to what people would say during wedding toasts, girl’s night, and funerals of our loved ones.
The shift from a transactional relationship between humans and machines to a cognitive relationship of emotion is happening. While Replika might seem to only be a start, the application already has over 100,000 users since last March. In order for Replika to interact with the most amount of people, its cognitive experience must have three traits of a healthy relationship: Purpose, Value, and Trust.
1. Have Purpose
Earlier in the week, one of my friends asked me if she should stay in her relationship with her current boyfriend. She explained her feelings, confusion, and thought process, but even with all of this information, I will never be able to answer this question. Simply because I am not her.
However, Replika’s carbon copy of my friend might be able to. She can see exactly what my friend is feeling through an analysis of all of her past messages on the topic. Imagine if you also added data from a smart watch. Does she really get butterflies in her stomach? Does her heart rush when she sees him? We could possibly get quantitative and qualitative to answer my friend’s dilemma.
While traditionally chatbots are thought to answer questions that can be found in a Google search, these chatbots develop cognitive relationships with the user to answer deeper and personalized questions that normally people do not have the answer to. I believe that people will engage with this system to get the answers to these questions.
2. Provide Value
Replika provides value because it knows us better than anyone else simply because it is us. If we are able to find these personalized deep answers, we might be able to make decisions faster and more accurately. No more worries about which decision will be best for us. In fact, if the decision somehow is wrong, we can always vent to our carbon copy about it.
3. Gain Trust
While 100,000 users on the platform have gained trust, there are still many potential users who are extremely hesitant to use the product. After watching an informational video about the product, I asked my friends if they would download the product. One person decided to download the product, but used a fake name and was about to make a fake email for the account before acknowledging how at unease she felt. I believe that gaining trust is the most important characteristic Replika must focus on in order to expand.
If Replika can capitalize on these three characteristics, the need for nonverbal cues in communication may be extinct.
However at this time, I believe that nonverbal communication is still essential to truly understand a person in the moment. If Replika can add nonverbal cues through facial and tone recognition to their chats, it might just have all the answers we are searching for.