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Innovation & Startups

Emodt co-founder reflects on emotional technology and the Oscar movie nominee Her

In the future, might our emotional well-being depend on our relationships with an operating system like the one in the Oscar-nominated movie Her? 
 
Pittsburgh startup Emodt suggests the concept is not as far-fetched or as far away as one might think. Just as digital technology like GPS helps us when we’re lost, this mobile digital platform helps people better understand and guide their emotional state through such issues as stress, insomnia, and depression.
 
Emodt (as in emote) is being developed by a small team in Pittsburgh under the direction of co-founder Dr. Matthew Keener, a translational neuroscientist and innovator who offered insights on the concept during a TEDx talk here last year. 
 
Another of Emodt’s cofounders is Johannes Eichstaedt, a Penn researcher and founder of the World Well-Being Project. Keener offers these thoughts on technology’s role in the future of therapy. 
 
How does Emodt work? 
 
It’s a software platform that works as an app and software package across several devices. 
The platform allows people to keep track of their emotional life and see how they’re improving through a suite of tools on their smartphone, supported by wearing a simple device that captures emotion-related information. 
 
Much like the software Lumosity provides specific exercises that help improve people’s cognitive skills, Emodt has programs that help people with their emotional performance. Users then get feedback on how they’re doing on a wide range of areas along with evidence-based strategies. For instance someone with sleep difficulties would be prompted around nighttime routines with things like a meditation drill. 
 
Interesting. So will technology one day replace therapy or is the idea to supplement it?
 
Well, keep in mind that technology is defined simply as the use of science toward solving real world problems. So technology has always been an element of providing emotional help and can be as simple as using pen and paper.
 
We are currently partnering with companies that have completely self-administered computerized therapies like CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) but we’re also working on software people would use in conjunction with therapists. 
 
What’s your time frame for when this will this be released?
 
Right now we’re still testing the platform in a series of beta trials but we’re excited that we’ll be making elements available through selected partners this year.
 
So did you find the movie Her at all realistic?  
 
Yes, I think it’s surprisingly realistic as far as what may be coming quite soon. 
Although the movie depicts artificial intelligence as a partial replacement for human relationships, I think it’s more likely that we’ll see the development of technologies working in the background as a support system, rather than a substitute for human connection with others or oneself. 
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Matt Keener, Emodt
 
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