People suffering from mental illness can now look forward to virtual assistants with personality for help. Researchers at the University of Waterloo have come up with a new method called SMERTI (pronounced: “Smarty”). It enables virtual assistants (VA) to use natural language and emotional cues to interact with people with mental illness and cognitive disabilities.
These on-demand chatbots are said to better connect with people depending on the relationship and wherever required.
SMERTI represents a number of artificial intelligence software tools working together, including similarity masking (SM), entity replacement (ER) and text infilling (TI). SMERTI takes a text response from a virtual assistant that has a certain personality and adjust it to match the current situation. For example, it would take the advice of “It is sunny outside; I know you hate to, but you must wear sunscreen” to “It is rainy outside; I know you hate to, but you must bring an umbrella”.
“Based on the respondents’ ratings of the various systems it was found that SMERTI outperformed all the baseline models especially in terms of fluency and overall replacement of the text to fit the new semantics,” said Jesse Hoey, an associate professor in the Waterloo’s Cheriton School of Computer Science.
Taking a step forward, the researchers at the University of Waterloo are now working on a system to generate the personality-flavoured text in the first place. Though complicated but when combined with SMERTI, it will result in virtual assistants that have a more consistent personality (key component of future virtual assistants for mental health support).