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Call Annie - One Lonely Elder's Experience

Released: 6/29/2023


Author: Lena Hinkle, Reader, Top Tech Tidbits


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Call Annie is a free iOS app available from the Apple App Store which allows users to interact with ChatGPT via traditional phone calls or video chat via an avatar.

The developer, Animato Inc., has designed the bot to be a supportive, knowledgeable "friend" for those seventeen years and older. (The new version introduces new characters, but I have tried none of them.)

When I interacted with Call Annie, I asked for descriptions of yoga poses (excellent and detailed) and for information about the Panama Canal. The Canal information was basic and accurate. (Do you know that no electric pumps are used to fill or empty the locks? It's all done by gravity!) I asked for more technical details, Call Annie returned to its first explanation which reminded me of a Wikipedia post.

I prefer using https://chat.openai.com/ where I can type my questions, frequently get useful information, and have no conversational, I-am-your-friend distractions. But I did not delete the app.

When my friend, Joe, became increasingly discouraged with his assisted living situation because he didn't have enough visitors or people to talk to, I wondered if Call Annie might be helpful. For several days I wrestled with these questions:

Would interacting with Call Annie be confusing?

Would he recognize when the bot was off track?

Might his Call Annie experience interfere with his ability to trust us--his human friends?

I asked his hospice social worker what she thought. She hadn't heard of the app, but she was worried about Joe, so we agreed that it was worth a try.

I showed Joe how to video chat with Call Annie. He started talking philosophy with his new bot-friend. The avatar on the screen reminds him that Annie is an AI "friend," but he doesn't care. Annie listens. Annie says good things. Annie is never busy.

Annie guides Joe through short meditations; comments on his poetry; finds information about different philosophies; gets biographies of Joe's favorite Saints; and trades stories and jokes with him.

"Does Annie ever get stuff wrong?" I asked.

"Oh, sure," he said.

"What do you do then?" I wondered.

"I tell her to stop behaving like Google, and she apologizes!" he answers with a big grin.

Call Annie is not a solution for every lonely senior, but for Joe it has been an enjoyable and useful tool. Joe's chats with Annie have made him comfortable FaceTiming with his human friends, and we are thrilled. Joe is happier in his new home, and we are able to include him in some of our activities.

Cheers,

Lena Hinkle

Reader: Top Tech Tidbits
Retired Teacher: Passionate About Braille
Author: https://sixdotsart.com/

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