It seems that you can’t walk five minutes down the road without seeing someone using their phone to log meals, track sleep or even find a new mate via Tinder. There’s no denying that smartphones have become a large part of our daily routine, but could they soon act as a pocket-sized life coach?
Interactive artists’ group, Blast Theory took this idea to new extremes à la Black Mirror, when developing their new app, Karen. You can interact with your new life coach through video “calls”, that sometimes feel a little too realistic. She asks you some simple questions to get started, which are actually drawn from psychological profile queries, and gives you advice on your answers.
The video course lasts a week to ten days, with a new video from Karen either once or twice a day. As a viewer you’ll get a glimpse into her personal life and watch her slowly become more chaotic and reliant on your calls. As she begins to unravel, the roles reverse, and you find yourself being the life coach to her. And if you tell her that you’re interested in women, prepare for the videos to get uncomfortably flirty.
With the help of National Theatre Wales, Dr Kelly Page and co-commissioning by The Space and a successful Kickstarter campaign, Karen was born. The app has become quite the hot topic in the office with a few of us comparing results and answers. And although it’s created a healthy debate, it’s slightly unnerving that we’re all so comfortable sharing personal information with a piece of software, all in the name of a personalised service.
It outlines on the Blast Theory website that data obtained by Karen is only used for the purposes of the video-game and won’t be shared with third parties, however, it makes you wonder which apps and websites do.
Although sometimes unsettling, there’s no real difference between Karen asking probing questions about your love life than our iPhone alerting us when a Costa is nearby. It highlights data mining, which goes on daily from many big websites, and it’s scary just how much it can reveal about you as a person.
At the end of the course, you’re given the option to buy your personalised data report, where you will find out just how much Karen know knows about you; Anything from whether you’re open to trying new things to how neurotic you are. A few select players will even be invited to a secret meeting with the real-life Karen. You can download the app by searching “Karen is my lifecoach” on the App Store. It’s a good idea to get a bunch of friends together to try it out too, just so you can see how different your results will be.