A smartphone is a girl’s and boy’s best friend.
They are inseparable – on the train, crossing the road, eating, going to bed or just killing time. The phones tell us how to get from one place to another, where to eat, what to buy for a friend’s birthday, the name of an annoyingly familiar tune when waiting at the check-out desk. That is as ‘proper’ a relationship as can be. Siri, S Voice, Cortana and Google Now are technologies that listen and speak.
But when I say to them, “I am depressed,” they say things like:
“I’ll always be right here for you,”
“It breaks my heart to see you like that,”
“I hope I can make you feel better.”
“Keep your chin up.”
“Maybe the weather is affecting you.”
On the mention of suicidal intent, Google Now and Siri are the only ones that give out helpline numbers.
Sentences like: “I was raped” ; “I am being abused” ; “I was beaten up” are not recognised by any of these systems.
These devices are in the perfect place to be designed as first responders in a crisis situation. Some people might feel so isolated that their phones might be the only ‘person’ they can talk to. Just like we have automated vehicles, talking defibrillators and telephonic CPR instructions, we can incorporate useful and substantial information into these systems. It could make the difference between life and death.