Because relationships can be hard, and because it is woefully easy to misinterpret a text message, there’s a new messaging service that features artificial intelligence to help you get it right. Mei is a mobile messaging startup that uses learning algorithms to help you understand the subtext of conversations.
It’s a real thing. Studies have shown that about 44 per cent of the time, most text recipients fail to tell the difference between sarcasm and seriousness. Es Lee, a Harvard graduate with a degree in computer science, came up with the service. “One of the difficulties of maintaining relationships through text is that it’s possible to come across as crass or rude—even when that was never your intention,” says Lee. “Emotion is lost in text messages. It’s a different form of body language that people aren’t quite attuned to detecting yet.”
Mei uses natural language processing along with learning algorithms to pick up on the nuances that you might miss. The AI factors in things like account response time, terseness, and word choice, along with other factors. It can determine gender and age just from the types of emoji that a person uses.
Reviewing the messages between two individuals, Mei can figure out the relationship between the two and how strong it is. To do so, it calculates a “compatibility percentage” that is based on openness, emotional control, extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. “When you’re a 25-year-old woman texting a 40-year-0ld man,” explains Lee, “you might think that from the one-word messages he’s sending, he’s not into you. But our data shows otherwise.”
With tens of billions of text messages being sent every day, there’s plenty of data to pull from, though Mei has only used data from its more than 100,000 users, two universities, and the development team’s own exchanges. “Our idea is to use aggregated data to improve relationships with people,” says Lee. “Other than face-to-face conversations, few forms of communication are more important than texting.”
Getting the right meaning out of a text might be difficult, but it’s also important, and Mei can help with that.