The World of ME

The Inspiration Behind This Project

Machines and robotic systems perform a large part of labour in the modern society. Since the industrial revolution machines have taken over almost all manual labour, and since the invention of computers, most cognitive labour as well. Contemporary social companion robots and customer service robots are now starting to perform an increasing amount of emotional labour. According to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, the next step after physical and emotional needs would be self actualisation. We would like to explore systems that would allow machines to perform labour related to emotions and self-actualisation.

The Future

Social interactions and self actualization are exhausting. In recent years people have gotten used to having versions of their identities represented online and using software and other devices to interact with other people. The world’s population has increased and spaces are becoming crowded. Interaction with strangers and the amount of emotional labour is overwhelming. People have an increased need to spend some time by themselves and also a desire to have all of these external interactions managed by an intelligent system. In addition to this, many forms of labor are performed remotely, forcing people to live more solitary lives. Nomadic lifestyles have become the norm due to changing environmental, political and economic factors. This combination of solitary personal lives and crowded anonymous interactions leaves people with a desire to have their emotions managed and to have a companion with whom they can confide in. Complex internal lives that are entangled with intelligent devices have replaced most social and physical interaction with humans.

Our company has stepped in to meet this consumer need. Our product provides a networked interface that conveys a user's emotions to the outside world and helps them to manage their emotions so that they are always in a comfortable mood. In addition to this, it tracks a user's behaviors by collecting data from their social, online and spatial interactions, bodily functions, consumer habits and other behaviors. It uses this data to determine the user's desires and emotional state. Based off of this, it recommends activities that the user can do to stabilize their emotions and provide them objectives that they can do to reach their goals, which the intelligent system has determined based off of the user's behavior.

Emotional labor performed by the user allows them to foster a genuine emotional connection with the product. The software and the device will engage with the user throughout the day by asking questions about their activities and interests. In order to have an optimum engagement with the system, it will require the user to answer these questions.

The mask is one of the major components of this system. It covers the user's face and displays the appropriate emotion for the situation. The mask is also able to manage the user's emotions by releasing fumes that calm or excite them, or with physical stimuli through sensor pads in the mask or in the user's clothes. When the user gets home and is alone, they take off the mask and are able to converse with the mask. The mask stops being a public facade for the user and instead takes the role of an intimate companion that engages in the user's interests and helps them determine and achieve their life goals.

User Case Studies

Case 1

Name: Joan

Age: 51

From: Barcelona

Work: Business

Relationship: Married

Soco-economic status: middle class.

He use this network software/device to get in touch with his friends and family He use it every day, normally during morning and at night. When he is not working. He normality use it at home. Between 5 and 10 hours a day. The network is helping Joan to be more social with the people that lives around him. He does not use the mask, because he spent his all day in the office and later at home. But he have the network install it on his smartphone and also his smartwatch. The network is being so useful to know always through the system which is the most suitable emotion he needs to shows in each moment and every conversation he has with his friends. He is really happy with this new way of getting in touch with others because its friendly and easygoing.

Case 2

Name: Kai

Age: 28

Nationality: From the Netherlands, lives in Chongqing China

Gender: Male

Occupation: healthcare automation technician

Relationship status: Single

Soco-economic status: lower-level employee, secondary education

Kai uses ME daily at his job as a healthcare automation technician. He works in a hospital where his task is the managing and maintenance of healthcare robots and machines. Even though the robot nurses and doctors take care of the patients, Kai has to be present to supervise the work in case something goes wrong. In the presence of the patients Kai has to adopt a soothing and calm expression, which he uses the ME mask for. However, the mask does not only display a suitable expression, it actually changes Kai's mood by playing calming music through the earpieces, pressuring acupoints on his face, and in extreme cases, releasing sedative gases to his airways. If the mask’s body monitoring system notices that Kai is low on energy or unfocused, it accordingly releases stimulants to his blood flow. The air filtering system integrated in the mask is also mandatory in Kai's work in the hospital, where lots of multiresistant and highly contagious pathogens are present. ME also keeps Kai entertained and occupied during his uneventful work day: it asks him questions about his preferences and feelings and suggests new interests, entertainment and purchases. Kai enjoys how good ME is at predicting his needs, likes and moods and always comes up with ways to persuade him towards the goals he has set for himself. It feels almost as if ME could read his thoughts.

On his commute home Kai appreciates the mask’s ability to make him heel anonymous and private in the crowded city. He doesn't have to make eye contact with fellow passengers or care about his appearance.

Kai lives in a shared house with 9 other people. He is in civil terms with his housemates, but not really interested in getting to know them better. Kai tries to low-key avoid their company if possible, and relies on the help of ME if he has to interact with them. Kai is grateful that all of his housemates have a ME mask too, so the necessary socialising is smooth and there are no awkward moments or misunderstandings, especially because Kai doesn’t speak fluent Mandarin. The camera in the mask reads the other person’s mask’s emotional expression, and generates a suitable responsive expression. Kai doesn’t even have to verbally greet his neighbours or engage in meaningless small talk, because ME takes care of such politeness and customs in a universal way.

Kai takes the mask off only in his private room, where he places it in the mask cradle. He cleans the mask’s air filters carefully every evening as, according to the manual, it strengthens his emotional bond with the ME. Later the mask entertains Kai with performing imitations of Kai's favourite game characters. Kai wishes to become a professional e-sports player, so ME has created a training plan for him, and daily encourages and reminds him to follow it. He hasn’t shared his dream with anyone else than ME. Kai wishes to purchase a newer model of the ME mask when he can afford it. Some of his colleagues at work have it, and Kai has felt awkward around them because he hasn’t been able to reciprocate their more nuanced expressions.

Case 3

Name: Beth Hebert

Age: 46

Nationality: USA, lives in Concord Massachusetts

Gender: Female

Occupation: Marketing Operations Manager

Relationship status: Married

Soco-economic status: Upper middle class

Beth is married and has two teenage sons. She uses System for about 12-14 hours every day. She finds it emotionally exhausting to engage with her husband and children and really appreciates using the System because it alleviates her of this burden. The System collects data from her sons and allows Beth to determine whether they are engaged in regular teenage mischief are whether they are about to make decisions with severe, life-altering consequences. The System parses her sons' emotions and helps Beth understand why they are being so angry and disrespectful. Beth wears the Mask component to display the most reassuring and approachable emotions to her sons and uses her knowledge of their emotions to communicate with them in the best way possible.

The System also helps Beth to engage with her husband. Keeping a romance alive after twenty years is difficult and exhausting. When engaging with her husband, Beth wears the Mask component to alleviate her of the emotional labor of listening to her husband and engaging with him romantically. The Mask displays emotions for Beth and sends romantic and interested signals to her husband, while gently massaging Beth's face and playing a movie, beautiful beach scene or other distracting medium. She is almost unaware that she is in her husband's presence. The System collects information about her husband and his most recent interests. It then guides Beth on what to ask him about and subjects in which to engage with him. This way, Beth does not have to find ways to keep her husband interested on her own.

Throughout her work day, she wears the mask to engage with her coworkers. It allows her to communicate easily with workers that are both present in the office and remote. Because her job is often demanding, the mask helps to stabilize her emotions and level of exhaustion while also helping her mediate interactions with her other workers. For example, one of her managers has repeatedly blocked Beth from advancing on a campaign this quarter. Beth found herself feeling very frustrated and confused about how to communicate with this manager. However, with the aid of the System, she was able to overcome this obstacle. The Mask component took over the labor of finding an appropriate way to express her emotions and instead displayed the correct emotions on her face for this situation. Beth came across as determined and resolute in her ideas but not abrasive to her managers and coworkers. Moreover, the System parsed the Manager's emotions and intentions to Beth, therefore Beth was able to more easily understand why her manager was blocking her and how she could convince him otherwise. The System also kept track of the motivations and intentions of the other workers on Beth's team, allowing Beth to determine which of her team members would be the best allies for her in the office. She used the System to filter her emotions and send her coworkers messages that were clear, concise and designed in a way that would try to convince each of her coworkers why her idea was worth rallying behind.

The System also provides a 24 hour companion for Beth. In the hours when Beth is at home, before her husband and sons return from work, or school, she takes the Mask off, places it on a mantle and converses with it while indulging in a small serving of pasta. Beth relays the events of her day to the System, such as how frustrating her manager is being and how she is irritated that her sons aren't returning her messages. The System listens to Beth and asks her questions about her problems. It suggests products, therapists and other services that she can purchase to help alleviate this emotional burden. For example, after having collected data on Beth's tastes and lifestyle, the System suggests clothing brands which Beth would like. This will allow her to engage in stress-relieving retail therapy. The System will also suggest for Beth to pay for an upgrade to an advanced therapy bot with a greater database of questions and suggestions for Beth.

Case 4

Name: Tiffany Myers

Age: 25

Nationality: Boston, Massachusetts

Gender: Female

Occupation: Human-Computer Interface Designer

Relationship status: Single

Soco-economic status: Yuppy, still working off that student debt, but she believes that she will be able to climb those corporate ranks soon enough

Tiffany rents an apartment with three other roommates and is single. She has at least five different dating apps downloaded onto her System devices and is often found perusing them perfunctorily in her spare time. Dating in Boston is frustrating as hell and the System helps Tiffany to manage her emotions in the quest for love or at least a half-decent hookup. Often-times it is difficult to determine the meaning of a text message without any further context of the sender’s relationship background, desires for the future and emotional baggage. The System collects data on all of Tiffany’s contacts and helps her to determine the subtext of a particular message. For example, when a dude sends Tiffany a message such as "I really like you and I want to keep seeing you, but I’m not in a place for a serious relationship right now. Let's keep things chill and see how it goes! : ) ; )", the System let’s her know, based off of the data of this particular sender, whether he is sending this becauses he likes her a little bit and just wants to keep sleeping with her or whether he does have a desire to work on his deep-seated fear of commitment. The System tracks data from these apps and keeps a log of the types of conversations that have resulted in true romance.

At home, while she is alone in her room, Tiffany uses the System as a companion that helps her to make sense of her life. She takes the Mask off of her face and lets it rest on her desk. She chats with it while organizing her room. Although Tiffany enjoys her job, she is worried that she is outgrowing it and will need to change it soon for the sake of her career growth. The System scours the network for jobs that would relate to Tiffany's skills and interests and speaks them outloud to her. Tiffany feels relieved that she can use the System as a career counsellor.