Koko raises $2.5 million to put human empathy inside every virtual assistant

Credit: Kevinbism

With the excitement and hype building around virtual reality, Chris Milk famously referred to VR as an “empathy machine.” Immersion in a 360-degree landscape can, indeed, create empathy, but so too can plain text, argues the startup Koko. Today Koko received $2.5 million to close a funding round, money the company will use to bring its emotionally intelligent A.I. to chatbots and virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa.

The idea is not just to make interactions with a bot more closely resemble interactions with a human but also to help people experiencing mental health emergencies, something a lot of bots fail to take into account.

Every time a person who feels stressed or in need of advice speaks to the Koko bot — available on Facebook Messenger, Kik, Telegram, and an API in beta — they are connected to an anonymous community of supportive people in more than 150 countries.