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Start-ups deliver therapy-bot to Syrian refugees

Text-based chat-bot Karim uses natural language processing to respond to users.

Text-based chat-bot Karim uses natural language processing to respond to users.

US start-up X2AI has created an artificially-intelligent robot called Karim, which can have personal text message conversations in Arabic to help users cope with their emotional problems.

With Karim, X2AI aims to provide assistance in helping Lebanon's influx of Syrian refugees to cope with psychological and emotional trauma, as well as mental conditions brought on or exacerbated by their experiences, such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

X2AI has partnered with Field Innovation Team, an NGO delivering tech-enabled disaster relief, to distribute Karim to refugees and aid workers in the region.

The robot uses natural language processing to analyse the user's emotional state and respond with appropriate questions, comments and recommendations.

While Karim is currently being used cautiously – as a kind of helpful friend rather than an actual therapist – X2AI's co-founder and CTO Eugene Bann believes the bot could play an important role in breaking down the social barriers, such as stigma, that often prevent people from seeking psychological help, The Guardian reports.

Bann told The Guardian that due to this stigma, some may feel more comfortable talking to a robot than to another person about their internal struggles, and Karim could serve as a kind of gateway to the therapy users need.

Karim is a subsidiary of X2AI's flagship therapy bot, Tess, which "administers highly personalised psychotherapy, psycho-education and health-related reminders," according to the start-up.

Tess interacts with users "solely through conversation" via existing communication channels such as SMS and instant messaging platforms.


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