In Canada, studies have found that one in five Canadians identified themselves as being lonely. Research highlights new worries about rising rates of loneliness which is now being associated with potentially life-shortening health issues; such as higher blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Some experts have gone as far as to argue that being lonely for a prolonged period is more harmful to a person's health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Unfortunately, the stigma of loneliness often prevents those experiencing intense loneliness from reaching out.

“We went out on the streets to talk to people about a new digital companion feature that could be added to one's phone plan,” explained Vaisnavee Thulakanathan, the lead for Team Aoun, “and we were surprised on the number of people who could see the benefit of such a feature.”

TED is an artificial intelligence that acts as a digital companion. He uses deep learning and natural language processing to converse with people and understand social cues. He is able to retain and build on previous conversations to establish a relationship over time similar to a friend. TED can be gifted to a friend or family member or used purchased for themselves.

TED is an assembly of Machine Learning and Communication technologies.

“We initially thought that this would be a perfect solution for seniors who feel isolated, and for their families who could not call them as often as they wanted to,” says Thulakanathan, “but soon realized that some saw this as a way to discuss complex topics or practice a new language or even find a new recipe with the contents they have in their fridge.”

The TED feature would create connections with people through listening, acknowledging, and responding without judgment. TED can support mental health and well being for the Roger’s customers. Although there was a consensus of trust and privacy issues, people seemed to embrace the idea. The possibilities are endless. TED can be integrated into home security reminding people to turn off the stove or lock their doors when they go out.

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