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Lenovo Powers AI Avatars to Explore the Role of Technology in Mental Health

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Today, Lenovo released the newest iteration of its Work For Humankind project, titled ‘Meet Your Digital Self’. The project highlights the role that smarter technology and AI can play in helping to advance change and support mental health professionals in addressing the global youth mental health crisis. This work aims to address the challenges young people face when living different lives in the real world versus online, as two-thirds (67%) of Gen Z feel a disconnect between their online and offline selves, fuelling feelings of loneliness and anxiety. While almost half (49%) of Gen Zs say it’s easier to express themselves online than offline, 60% wish they could have difficult conversations with family and loved ones in real life.

Sarah Kendrick, Clinical Director at Mental Health Innovations, the charity running the UK’s Shout 24/7 text support service said, "One in eight people globally grapple with a mental health condition, with Gen Z experiencing the greatest impact, where that figure rises to one in five. The type of AI innovation in Lenovo’s ‘Meet Your Digital Self’ social experiment shows promise as a way in which generations with different understandings of online personas can meet and understand each other.”

In this first-of-its-kind social experiment, Lenovo pioneered the use of AI made possible by its broad portfolio of technology, from mobile phones and PCs to infrastructure, software, services, solutions, and cloud. The combined technology brought to life the entire online personas of two Gen Z project participants as lifelike avatars capable of having unscripted, natural conversation.

The experiment facilitated impactful, heartfelt conversations between the participants, their family members, and the avatars – conversations that might not have happened otherwise, in real life. The family members either didn’t know about their Gen Z participant’s online world or didn’t understand and accept it: be it their career choices or gender identity. By asking the digital avatars questions and having real-time conversations, each family member gained invaluable insights into their Gen Z loved one's true self as expressed in the online world and were able to better understand and reconnect in real life. The project is a pioneering proof of concept demonstrating the positive impact technology can have in advancing positive change in the youth mental health epidemic, which has been worsened by their struggle to balance two distinct online and offline identities.

The 3D avatars not only resembled each participant but were built to be able to respond to real-time conversation – adjusting their tones, movements, and facial expressions based on the discussion. To do that the avatars were trained on data that came directly from each participant’s online persona.

According to new research from Lenovo, almost half (48%) of Gen Zs say talking to a trained professional would give them the confidence to talk more openly with the people they love in the real world.

In an effort to expand mental health support and resources for people in need, Lenovo has partnered with several organizations, such as Shout, a free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging service based in the UK; Crisis Text Line, a non-profit organization that provides free, 24/7 confidential text-based mental health support in both English and Spanish for anyone in the US and Puerto Rico; and Anata no Ibasho in Japan. These organizations train real people who are then supervised by mental health professional staff, offering support to millions in need.

The digital versions of the two Gen Z participants were created by weaving together data from across their social media, blog, and forum handles securely with their consent. The data was trained and tested, and the project designed and brought to life with Lenovo devices, services, software, servers, and cloud solutions. This is the first time ever that Lenovo solutions have come together to develop an avatar of this kind. Devices and solutions include Lenovo ThinkStation™ workstations; ThinkCentre™ desktop computers; Lenovo Legion™, ThinkBook™ and Yoga™ laptops; Lenovo tablets; ThinkVision™ monitors and accessories; motorola razr smartphones; ThinkEdge™ SE450 Edge Server; AI Professional Services and Lenovo | Dropbox Cloud Storage.

"Technology can become the bridge that shortens distances, making powerful human-to-human connection faster and more accessible to people in moments of need,” said Dr. Shairi Turner, Chief Health Officer at Crisis Text Line. “Whether someone is in a classroom, at a family event, or lying awake at night, the power of a text conversation with another human offers solace in anonymity and compassion without judgement. It is truly brave to reach out for support."

Crisis Text Line reports that more than 70% of its texters are under the age of 25. Its text-based service helps people of all ages but was specifically created for young people allowing for on-demand support through text message.

Anyone who sees themselves in these films, struggling to reconcile their online and offline identities and more deeply connect with their friends and family, or who simply needs advice on how to reach out to someone close to them, can reach out for support by messaging Shout (UK), Crisis Text Line (US), or Anata no Ibasho (Japan).

“We recognize the importance of achieving a healthy digital balance for our overall mental wellbeing,” commented Emily Ketchen, global vice president and CMO of Intelligent Devices Group and International Markets at Lenovo. “With huge advancements in AI and smarter technologies, now is the time to explore and pilot creative new ways to use technology like AI thoughtfully and responsibly, for the greater good. Lenovo is uniquely positioned to lead here thanks to having one of the industry’s broadest portfolios of smarter technology—from AI devices to IT solutions—that can work seamlessly together to benefit our society and the next generation. Ultimately, we hope that through our ‘Meet Your Digital Self’ social experiment we can spark meaningful conversations that contribute to the mental wellbeing of individuals and communities worldwide.”

Chinatsu Hoashi, Gen Z participant from Japan comments: “Taking part in the ‘Meet Your Digital Self’ social experiment has definitely helped strengthen relationships with my family. By using technology and AI, I was able to open up more and convey what I always wanted them know. This has had a positive impact on my mental health, as I can finally express feelings I have been avoiding telling people because I was too embarrassed.”

Oscar Jackson-Walsh, Gen Z participant from UK comments: “Taking part in this social experiment has helped me to become more confident and bridge the gap between myself and my online persona. It has also enabled me to have more open conversations with my family around my identity, which has not only made me feel more loved and accepted than ever before, but also less alone and anxious in a family space.”

Watch the ‘Meet Your Digital Self’ videos here: https://lenovowfh.com/

About Work For Humankind

‘Meet Your Digital Self’ is the latest evolution of Lenovo’s Work For Humankind platform showcasing how technology brings people together for the greater good. What began in 2020 as a way to step into the daily lives of 10 young women driving change in their communities has evolved into a groundbreaking, multi-year movement that showcases technology as a catalyst for impact, from Robinson Crusoe Island to cities and countries around the globe. Work For Humankind delivers on Lenovo’s vision of creating Smarter Technology for All through world-changing innovations.

With ‘Meet Your Digital Self,’ Lenovo creates the next chapter in this exciting campaign and aims to create a meaningful conversation around the positive impact that technology can have on society's wellbeing, including supporting mental health professionals.

About Lenovo

Lenovo is a US$57 billion revenue global technology powerhouse, ranked #217 in the Fortune Global 500, and serving millions of customers every day in 180 markets. Focused on a bold vision to deliver Smarter Technology for All, Lenovo has built on its success as the world’s largest PC company with a pocket-to cloud portfolio of AI-enabled, AI-ready, and AI-optimized devices (PCs, workstations, smartphones, tablets), infrastructure (server, storage, edge, high performance computing and software defined infrastructure), software, solutions, and services. Lenovo’s continued investment in world-changing innovation is building a more equitable, trustworthy, and smarter future for everyone, everywhere. Lenovo is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange under Lenovo Group Limited (HKSE: 992) (ADR: LNVGY). To find out more visit https://www.lenovo.com, and read about the latest news via our StoryHub.

LENOVO, THINKSTATION, THINKCENTRE, LENOVO LEGION, THINKBOOK, YOGA, THINKVISION, and THINKEDGE are trademarks of Lenovo. RAZR® is a registered trademark of Razor USA LLC; RAZR and RAZR-formatives are used with permission of Razor USA LLC. MOTOROLA, the Stylized M Logo, MOTO and the MOTO family of marks are trademarks of Motorola Trademark Holdings, LLC. DROPBOX is a trademark of Dropbox, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. ©2024, Lenovo Group Limited. ©2024 Motorola Mobility LLC. All rights reserved.

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