New Lenovo research uses AI avatars to explore role of tech in mental health
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Global technology brand Lenovo, in a new social experiment titled ‘Meet Your Digital Self’, has utilised artificial intelligence (AI) avatars to explore the role of technology in mental health and raise awareness of Gen Zs’ loneliness and anxiety worsened by big differences in their real and online lives.

In this first-of-its-kind social experiment, Lenovo used AI technology to bring to life the entire online personas of two Gen Z project participants as lifelike avatars capable of having unscripted, natural conversations.

The experiment enabled impactful, heartfelt conversations between the participants, their family members, and the avatars – conversations that might not have happened otherwise, in real life.

The family members either didn’t know about their Gen Z participant’s online world or didn’t understand and accept it: be it their career choices or gender identity, the research noted.

By asking the digital avatars questions and having real-time conversations, each family member gained invaluable insights into their Gen Z loved one’s true self as expressed in the online world and were able to better understand and reconnect in real life.

“The project is a pioneering proof of concept demonstrating the positive impact technology can have in advancing positive change in the youth mental health epidemic, which has been worsened by their struggle to balance two distinct online and offline identities,” the research said.

The research found that 67 per cent of Gen Z feel a disconnect between their online and offline selves, fuelling feelings of loneliness and anxiety.

While almost half (49 per cent) of Gen Zs said it’s easier to express themselves online than offline, 60 per cent wished they could have difficult conversations with family and loved ones in real life.

“One in eight people globally grapple with a mental health condition, with Gen Z experiencing the greatest impact, where that figure rises to one in five. The type of AI innovation in Lenovo’s ‘Meet Your Digital Self’ social experiment shows promise as a way in which generations with different understandings of online personas can meet and understand each other,” said Sarah Kendrick, Clinical Director at Mental Health Innovations, the charity running the UK’s Shout 24/7 text support service.

The digital representations of the two Gen Z participants were built by securely combining data from their social media, blog, and forum accounts with their cooperation. The data was trained and tested, and the project was created and implemented using Lenovo hardware, software, servers, and cloud technologies.

“With huge advancements in AI and smarter technologies, now is the time to explore and pilot creative new ways to use technology like AI thoughtfully and responsibly, for the greater good,” said Emily Ketchen, global VP and CMO of Intelligent Devices Group and International Markets at Lenovo.

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