The Best Inventions of 2021
November 10, 2021 6:13 AM EST

Nearly half of U.S. LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 24 thought they needed mental-health counseling in 2020 but didn’t receive it, according to a report from the Trevor Project, a nonprofit LGBTQ suicide-prevention organization. To help meet demand and train more counselors, the group partnered with Google.org to create Riley, a genderqueer Black teenager from North Carolina who also happens to be an AI chatbot. Riley is a skilled conversationalist and can remember the details it shares throughout a conversation, which helps trainees learn how to show they are listening and absorbing what a person in crisis is sharing. Since its launch in January 2021, Riley has helped train hundreds of counselors, says Dan Fichter, head of AI and engineering at the Trevor Project; Fichter envisions a future where AI personas help people “learn to be even better at what they’re doing.” —Guadalupe Gonzalez

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