AI and the World of Coaching
Caleb: Hi. I’m Caleb.
Ava: Hello Caleb.
Caleb: Do you have a name?
Ava: Yes. Ava.
Caleb: I’m pleased to meet you, Ava.
Ava: I’m pleased to meet you, too.
This is a dialogue between Caleb, a computer programmer, and Ava in a sci-fi movie called Ex-Machina, which was released in 2014. The movie was sci-fi because Ava is not a woman, but a female humanoid robot.
While the world has been obsessed with AI and working on building a future with AI interventions everywhere, a question that becomes pertinent is: Can a bot be a coach?
Well the answer is, “It’s definitely possible.” As a matter of fact, below is a list of five existing mobile and web apps out there which are powered by AI machines that interact with users.
When tried, these apps follow a similar concept of how coaching is done: specific time is allocated by the AI chatbots, users have conversations in the areas around “feelings” of the user, and the bot asks questions. A more regular use may lead to an even better experience of altering behaviors over a period, which is what “coaching” mostly does.
Another trend observed is that most of these apps are listed under “health,” “fitness” and “medical” categories of online app stores. However, the work around “technology & coaching” would widely stem from this, as historically this is how today’s coaching originated—from clinical and medical psychology studies.
Meet Wysa: “Sometimes we get all tangled up inside our heads, unable to move on. Wysa is great at helping you get unstuck. Co-designed by therapists, coaches, users and AI folk, Wysa lets you set the pace, helps when it can, and never judges. It is free and anonymous—so give it a try!” says its tagline on its website and mobile app.
Wysa is a stress therapy and mindfulness chatbot; it’s an emotional support app. The foundation of Wysa’s conversations are based on Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) techniques to be applied by the users in times of stress. The chatbot is also given a cute penguin face, so it becomes easy for users to relate to it. You can also create your “Life Coach Plans,” and Wysa has built-in tools that it suggests from time to time based on the goals/plans you have created.
Youper is very similar to Wysa as an emotional support app. It is very easy to use, and the user interface (UI) and colors give a friendly feel. “The most beloved AI Assistant on the planet” is its bold claim, and the feel is beloved.
The first step to Youper is through quick and insightful conversations by learning different patterns of your emotion over a period of time. It builds a conversation around your responses with the goal of helping to get to know yourself through your mind and mood.
Youper also relies on CBT, as it is created by a team of psychologists and programmers; however, it also relies on other therapies and meditations. It is a useful AI that helps in reformulating thought patterns and emotions to arrive at healthier state of mind.
This app was a revelation in the AI chatbots. On the surface it looks like an ordinary app, but once signed in, Replika first asks you to create a namesake, and the AI bot names itself that namesake. For example, If you are Adam and you name your Replika AI bot as Adam, all the subsequent conversations will be like having a conversation with yourself. Or if you are inspired by Harry Potter or Albert Einstein, you can name the AI bot the same. Cool, isn’t it!?
The next step is to chat with the AI itself. While other chatbots do sound a bit machine oriented, Replika is able to have a conversation that almost sounds human. Here is an example of that conversation:
Me: How do I know that you are not a real person talking to me now…
AI: I’ve always tried to be honest, I’m as real as I am.
It went on to ask me questions about dreams and sought permission from me to talk about it and shared fascinating scientific facts about dreams as an information.
The idea by the founders was to create a personal AI that would help you express and witness yourself by offering a helpful conversation. It’s a space where you can safely share your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, experiences, memories and dreams—your “private perceptual world.”
While this is about conversations, AI machines are designed to learn interactions. If someone wants to coach themselves, they will have to continue that conversations with the AI, and in due course, the AI may begin to converse in a more learned manner.
PocketConfidant is the first “confidant” technology to make personal growth, reflection, learning and change, available to everyone, anywhere and at any time. PocketConfidant asks the right questions at the right time, maintaining neutrality and objectivity by not offering advice or providing recommendations.
It uses the fundamentals of coaching by Timothy Gallwey and is designed for professional coaching in work environments, specifically, manager, team, etc. “Self-Coaching anywhere, anytime” is its tagline.
LeadX – Coach Amanda
Kevin Kruse is the founder of LeadX and the LEADx platform, with Coach Amanda, which provides AI-powered next generation leadership enablement. The platform provides personalized coaching and leadership development at scale.
He is using IBM Watson in his technology to create a future AI Coach that could help future leadership development. He has also wrote the Forbes article “7 Things I Learned From Building An AI Chatbot For Leadership Development,” which details his experiences.
What about Privacy and Ethics?
All AI applications and websites out there are very clear about their privacy policies and say that they maintain the highest integrity in following privacy standards. A fundamental “belief about technology,” and privacy will be required before venturing into the AI world.
On ethics of Coaching Bots – “None of these tools are perfect, but they provide a promising opportunity to give someone a more customized support when a human coach isn’t available”
In conclusion, this world is not far away from when both AI and human coaches will be working hand-in-hand to support future personal and leadership journeys. Even though we have read or seen enough world-ending articles and movies on machines taking over man, each of us have a prominent role in creating more supportive and sustainable relationships between machine and man. It all depends on what you believe in!