Aaina is an AI mobile counselor that offers a safe space for reflection and connects you with in-person support when you need it.
The Aaina experience is designed to be a bridge to therapy, not a substitute. It helps you reflect while tracking keywords and emotions during sessions to help you better understand on your own journey.
Context | CMU MDes Fall 2018 IxD Studio I 6 weeks (Oct 22th ~ Dec 5th)
Team | Corine Britto, Carlie Guilfoile, Tithi Jasani
Role | research, ideation, visual design, interaction design, prototyping
Tools | Sketch, Principle, Adobe AfterEffects, Illustrator
"For users, Conversational AI offers for the first time a means to interact with technology using their own words. For technology to understand them, not the other way around."
- Andy Peart, Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer at Artificial Solutions
Design a screen-based, interactive application that responds to content and emotions being expressed in conversations between counselors and clients. Consider how visuals can support the conversation of the transcript. Leverage the information the system has on the client through their AI-led counseling sessions to provide a customized doctor-facing application.
1. CLIENT - CONVERSATION WITH AAINA
2.1 CLIENT - AAINA RECOMMENDS THERAPISTS
If you want to supplement your sessions with in-person therapy, Aaina can recommend counselors in your area that specialize in talking to people just like users. Users can learn information about therapists and schedule an appointment through Aaina application.
2.2 CLIENT - SCHEDULING APPOINTMENT WITH THERAPISTS
3. CLIENT - SEND DATA TO THERAPISTS
In order to help therapists learn more about users before starting the session, Aaina suggests to send data which is collected from conversation with Aaina or other mobile application such as Apple Health.
Users can select categories that they want to share with the therapist. Before starting to share data, Aaina confirms the user by voice so that users don't have to worry about personal information leakage by others.
4. THERAPIST - RECEIVE DATA FROM AAINA
With the help of Aaina, the therapist will use their dashboard to make meaningful connections with the data you've shared.
5. THERAPIST - USING DATA DURING SESSIONS
No matter when you see the therapist, Aaina makes the transition easy. Through a secure network, your therapist can view and track your progress so that you can tackle your depression holistically.
6. THERAPIST - SENDING ACTION PLAN THROUGH AAINA
If you would like, at the end of your session, your therapist can send your action plan to Aaina, so that she can support your journey between sessions.
CURRENT EXISTING THERAPY APP
We started to conduct research on current existing therapy applications. In general, types of therapy application can be divided into 5; one-on-one chat app, support group chat room, one-on-one video counseling, counseling from a team of therapists that act as a singular voice, automated mood & habit tracking application.
These were great examples to learn what information should be tracked and how the application can act as a bridge between a client and a therapist.
It is a chatbot therapist created by Stanford psychologists. It uses daily chat conversations, mood tracking, curated video, and word video to help manage mental health of clients. The people who designed this service said the biggest barrier to therapy was a human stigma.
Customizable chatbot that therapists can use to keep their patients engaged. It gives the doctor a full record of the chats, along with an analysis of frequently used positive and negative words.
WHY CONVERSATIONAL UI
The use of AI is expanding beyond task-oriented interactions into those that are imprecise, abstract, and emotional. For the purpose of counseling, we thought that conversation based interaction is suitable.
Then, we tried to learn more about Conversational User Interface(CUI). While analyzing the representative voice assistants, we could find several benefits of using voice-based interactions.
FASTER: Humans deliver and process audio far more quickly than they do all other media. People can speak a lot faster than they can type. An average person speaks around 16,000 words a day.
EASIER: Voice is not just faster; it’s also easier than typing a message. There’s a reason why in China, people send voice messages to each other rather than text.
MORE NATURAL: Voice communication is a natural way for humans to communicate. This means that voice interaction systems are more comfortable than visual interfaces for the vast majority of users.
MORE CONVENIENT: Interacting with a VUI simply requires a user to speak to the device. A VUI doesn’t force users to learn and recall specific commands or methods of interaction, therefore creating less friction.
PERSONALITY: Voice communicates personality. As human beings, we subconsciously equate the sound of human speech with personality. Pace, tone, and other voice attributes can be used by brands to create a right impression on the user.
ACCESSIBILITY: VUI is accessible for people regardless of ages or genders.
WHY OUR AI NEEDS PERSONA
Because human beings subconsciously equate the sound of human speech with personality. To use voice-based interaction for the purpose of counseling, we realized that it is essential to set persona of AI. We thought it will give us direction on visualizing the form of AI and choosing the voice.
Then, we designed the persona of AI counselor. We thought it might be suitable to design the AI persona reflecting on characteristics of general therapists. But we also added some specific characteristics to her.
Aaina means 'Mirror' in Indian. We named our AI counselor as Aaina because our service provides mental supports to clients by letting them reflecting on themselves.
The most important characteristic is that she is not the replacement of in-person therapist. Instead, she acts as a bridge to therapy and connects seamlessly between the sessions with in-person therapists.
We created several storyboards considering various situations. But we could finally narrow down the context of usage into this storyboard.
Our clients might use the AI therapy service in a more personalized space. Since many people feel more emotionally sensitive at night before going to bed, our clients mainly communicate with our AI counselor on the bed.
After reading through the script and researching conversation AI, we decided that there would be greater value in building a system that depicts the support and reactions of the counselor. Through discussion, we felt this approach would feel most natural to the client by evoking a feeling of talking to a real person.
Based on this, we began exploring a ‘humanistic’ forms and shapes for the visual of our counselor. Our explorations involved simple lines, shapes, and eyes to depict supportive gestures and counselor engagement in the course of the conversation.
However, we found that depicting human form might actually lead to false expectations from the client. It seemed that using too concrete or realistic form might not suitable for the project's purpose.
ABSTRACT FORM with emotions
As we started to pivot and explore more directions, we looked at nature for inspiration. We explored different movements such as the rustling of leaves in the wind, flowing water, gradients created during the sunset etc.
Our team was drawn to forms that were inspired by water. We were able to make several personal connections to water and mental health. For example, people like to spend time near bodies of water to soothe themselves; people take baths to relax and drink hot tea as a calming ritual.
Sad / Disappointed
Listening / Waiting
ABSTRACT FORM with human gestures
Boring / Waiting
FINAL FORM OF AAINA
Aaina was designed based on the inspiration from the deep blue sea. We thought that a quiet sea, one of the representative nature, gives a feeling of calmness to people.
Also, we thought that users might make a conversation with Aaina at night when they become emotionally sensitive. Thus, dark bluish or greenish colors might be suitable for that context.
The form of Aaina is designed to visualize what she says and her motions. The shape is inspired by a water bubble or blob.
Initiating a therapy session. By touching the rounded square, users can start sessions and talk with Aaina. This interaction can make users more engaging.
When Aaina speaks, the outer dots move outwards according to its tone and visualize her voice.
3) TRANSITION - SPEAKING TO LISTENING
Aaina goes a little bit back and gives space to a user so that he/she could tell more about themselves in a comfortable atmosphere. It is designed based on the human behaviors of leaning back when they start to listen. This motion could show that Aaina is concentrating on the conversation and users' voice.
When Aaina listens, in other words, when a user speaks, the dots move in the opposite direction, inwards. It is designed to visualize the users' voices because this feature could give an opportunity for users to reflect on themselves.
Aaina shows unique gestures when she asks questions or prompting.
6) WAITING / DEFAULT
Aaina's slow but continuous movement makes users comfortable.
Copyright 2019 Jaeyeon Huh. All rights reserved.