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Breakup Aid aims to help you cope with a tough breakup

Empathetic computers could help us better communicate with our tech.

Empathetic computers could help us better communicate with our tech.

In this images, a man watches a woman walking away. (jurien huggins/Unsplash)
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Breakup Aid is a program for Google's smart speaker, Google Home, that listens to and comforts a user after a breakup. 

The project is the creation of artist and designer Ridwan Madon, a student at the TISCH School of Art in New York. Madon's project was inspired by his own experience with a breakup, as well as hearing about breakups his friends were going through.

"Basically they wanted someone to really listen to them," Madon said. But it wasn't realistic to give everyone the attention he thought they deserved.  "It's normal for humans to be very occupied with time and we cannot really attend to everyone."

Breakup Aid is a chatbot that works through Google Home and asks the user a series of questions about their situation and their feelings. Questions that, as Madon said, "you as a person who actually went through a breakup would expect someone to ask."

Compared virtual assistants like Siri or Alexa, Breakup Aid is relatively simple, and Madon said it isn't meant to heal someone suffering after a breakup. "The healing process requires much more in depth data of machine learning to do that. But what it does is provide the basis of a listening ear."

Technology that elicits emotion from users is a common theme in Madon's work. While Breakup Aid is an interesting tool, it is also an example of how emotion can help humans communicate with their technology. 

"As human beings we have emotions," Madon said. "But in terms of technology, it's something that is very static… So I am trying to bridge that gap, where there is the absence of emotion in technology and how can I translate human emotion and put that into technology. And that could be a way that we reciprocate between us and the chatbot itself."

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