After writing my master's degree thesis, I had to work on a project related to my research field in order to graduate from my design school. My thesis was about gender and artificial intelligence and the danger that AI technology could be to gender and sexual minorities. It ended on a quite positive note with the hope that, if properly built, trained and used, AI technologies could be a force of emancipation for queer people.
My project would then focus on proposing a potential application of AI in a tool dedicated to queer people. That's how I created Journey, an AI companion that helps LGBT+ people who have been victims of violence.
Thanks to my thesis, I knew that AI could be a force of good for LGBT+ people. But knowing that was not enough to find actionable ways to make artificial intelligence useful to the queer community. That's why I needed insights from this community to find potential opportunities for my project.
I started by interviewing experts on AI and gender, people involved in the protection of LGBT+ people, and I also conducted a survey targeting those people to get to know their needs and their relation to technology.
Those interviews and surveys allowed me to identify potential problems that I could work on. As expected, one of the major topics I got to talk about was violence towards LGBT+ people.
After identifying the issue of violence and confirming that I could potentially help solve a part of it with AI, I started to go deeper into the subject. I did what I called a categorization of violence to understand the complexity of the many forms of violence that minorities can experience.
I understood that I could act on cyber, verbal or physical violence. I could also work on preventing violence or treating the consequences. My conclusion after all of this was that working on treating the consequences was a far more realistic goal to achieve with a digital technology such as AI, at least from a designer's perspective.
My goal would then be to develop an AI powered platform that would help people who have experienced violence to recover by:
- Establishing a feeling of protection and intimacy
- Leading people towards human beings that can help them
- Encourage legal complaints to track violences in a better way
After setting this goal, I had another crucial research phase to see what shape my platform would take (would it be an object, a website, an app, a companion?).
Discussions with LGBT+ people and researchers allowed me to progress in finding a solution.
In the end, it was clear that even if technology could be a tool to help, it could not solve everything and it had to be accessible to as many people as possible if it was to work.
My project would then be made of two components :
- An AI companion available via a free app and a website
- A charity ecosystem that would manage this project and help people
This was the beginning of my project called: Journey.
Journey is mostly accessible in the form of a free app you can easily download. Anybody can download Journey at anytime to confide, chat and find help after an agression or in case of a feeling of loneliness. Journey is not supposed to replace police or charities it's here as mediation to bring people closer to help.
When you launch the Journey app you are invited to send a message and explain what brings you here to begin the chat. Then, a discussion will begin.
Its goal will be to help people with advice, content and more to find the help they really need. This can be psychological help, help from friends or help from an institution.
Journey will learn about you and your needs and give you the help you need without rushing you, since people who experiences violence can be in a state of shock.
Journey being a service focused on privacy and intimacy, it also has a lot of privacy centric functions and a lot of explanations about data use and how the AI actually works.
Journey's UI reflects the fact that it's here to gradually help you. You will start by a written chat, then a voice one and in the end will probably end up talking to a real human. The idea here is to allow people to slowly talk to the people they need.
This idea of progression is also reflected on the design of the Journey assistant. It's at fist symbolized by an abstract shape but it will slowly turn into a face made of those shapes. Those characters are designed by an algorithm to match your own personality. There are up to 62 billion possibilities.
Behind Journey, there is also a charity with multiple goals:
- Developing the Journey app and AI
- Finding a team of helpers to chat with people and redirect them
- Build a report on violence and communicate around it
- Create workshops to codesign Journey
This charity is here to manage the project, promote it and ensure it's always designed with victims in mind.
Journey is an app, an AI, a Charity. It's a queer program that can help lost, lonely people and victims of violence to find recovery by getting them the help they need.