Building and maintaining relationships is difficult, and COVID-19 certainly won’t help.many kinds of study show that adults have become lonelier since the pandemic began.
Founders are struggling to find technical solutions.There are a number of startups looking to combat loneliness — some launched years before the pandemic hit — including ones focused on older adults. Eric and replicawhich creates an AI companion, and Infect AI’s Pi, the emotional support robot. But one new entrant this week really caught my eye: patio.
The startup built an AI relationship coach to help people develop and nurture real-life connections by providing advice and answering relationship questions. The company was founded by former Tinder CEO Renate Nyborg and incubated at Wu Enda’s AI Fund. Nyborg told Vox’s Recode Media that the company just raised an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding in just 24 hours podcast Back to April.
While battling loneliness is a great mission — some people might prefer chatting with a bot to a human — it feels like it has the potential to go wrong very quickly. but what do i know So I contacted an expert.
Turns out I’m not the only one who is a little wary of the concept. Maarten Sap, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and a fellow at the nonprofit Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, expressed my concerns. Sap’s research focuses on building social common sense and social intelligence into AI. He also researches the development of deep language learning models that aid in understanding human cognition. Essentially, he knows a thing or two about how artificial intelligence interacts with humans.
Sap told me that while the idea of creating a technological solution to help foster real-life relationships is admirable — and there is indeed evidence that AI will have solid use cases for solving these types of problems — it’s something that makes him Hesitated.
“I say this with an open mind, I don’t think it’s going to work,” he said. “Have they done research showing how this will work? Will (Amorai) increase social skills (of users)? Because yeah, I don’t know to what extent these things transfer.”
The most important thing that gives him pause, he says, is the worry that this type of app will give all users the same advice, good or bad, and that artificial intelligence will have a hard time grasping the nuances of certain relationships. Also, people will Trust an AI’s suggestion instead of another human being?
“The idea of a pickup artist popped into my head,” says Sap. “Is this to give you advice to have a bunch of straight guys go and nag women, or try to sleep with them? Or are they setting up guardrails for that?”
If the model is designed to learn on its own, it can create an echo chamber based on the types of questions people ask. This in turn can point the model in problematic directions if left unchecked.When Bing’s AI tells people they are unhappy marriage.
That’s definitely one way to do it, if there’s a human touch, Sap said. Human oversight to ensure the app gets the right advice to the right people can make it a powerful tool. But we don’t know if that’s the case, as the company neither answers questions nor gives interviews.
This round also highlights just how deep FOMO in AI really is. People who study this stuff every day can’t see how this company really works, and Amorai raised money within 24 hours of a poor market launch.
Investors, of course, know more about companies than what is released, and of course, these concerns can serve as feedback to startups. But like a lot of AI startups, I have to assume it was built with good intentions, despite not having any concrete proof of that.
I also don’t think it’s a small pre-seed round – which I usually do when a company doesn’t disclose the total funding; if it’s big, you want people to know – but in this case, I think the opposite might be the case. There is a lot of pressure to raise significant capital before executing or finding product market fit.
“When I hear about these ideas and startups, it’s coming from a good place, but it’s often just a technology solutionist mentality,” Sap said.