Longevity Network
  • Feb 20, 2017
  • Heidi Culbertson

Guest Voices: Heidi Culbertson of Marvee on the Potential of Chatbots for 50+

Guest Voices: Heidi Culbertson of Marvee on the Potential of Chatbots for 50+

“Hi, my name is Boomer Chatbot. I am designed to process language, spoken or text, and am so seamless you will not be sure whether you’re talking to a human or a chatbot.  I am here to help you with tasks, activities and purchases; befriend you to combat social isolation; securely converse with you about your health; communicate with your care circle, assist you to age in place, and offer a personalized experience to stay connected, engaged and active. Just use your voice.”

So, it is 2017 and it’s amazing to even be thinking about artificial intelligence, chatbots and the over-50 population.  We experienced the 90’s when the web emerged, the 2000’s when mobile adoption began; and then mobile app stores brought increased capabilities, new business models, investment and the birth of the mobile economy. We entered the era of always on, anytime, anywhere.

In more recent years, messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, Slack, Skype, WhatsApp and WeChat are changing the way we communicate with each other, offering personalized messaging for conversation and collaboration with friends and colleagues.

Today we are witnessing the beginning of voice-driven AI-based engagement with Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana. These are chatbots by its simplest definition – they process language, spoken or text, and perform predetermined actions. They are pre-built natural language systems that will evolve into conversation platforms.

I believe, just as the mobile user experience was redefined with the introduction of the iPhone, voice-driven interaction has been redefined for the masses with the introduction of the Amazon Echo. We are now inviting Alexa into our homes and there is immediate impact for the 50+ population where vision, mobility and aging challenges begin to creep into active lifestyles. We are just beginning to learn how voice-driven capability can improve care delivery with automated notifications, or connected home safety to improve the quality of life for our loved ones. Is this the beginning of the emergence of new conversational experiences? Absolutely. Do we have a long way to go? Definitely.  And what might this all mean for the over-50 population?

Amazon is awarding a substantial prize, up to $2.5 million, challenging university students to build a socialbot on Alexa that can sustain a 20-minute conversation. I think it’s a great idea to crowdsource artificial intelligence on Alexa and points to our conversational future. It’s likely artificial intelligence technology will evolve, security protocols outlined and best practices be adopted.

I do admit to a bit of envy of the university student teams vying for the Alexa Prize.  As the founder of a startup, integrated with Alexa and focused on serving family caregivers with family care delivery, and senior adults who battle social isolation, we have a robust roadmap as there is real need for hands-free, voice-driven real life application. There is also a need for the longevity audience to play a part in the design of future conversation platforms. Healthcare and caregiving are ripe for artificial intelligence innovation. There is great potential and opportunity for AI solutions crafted for the 117M who are estimated to need some level of care by 2020 and for the 45M family caregivers taking care of loved ones.

We need to have a longevity voice to help others see the vision of evolving speech recognition and natural language processing technology enhancing the lives of senior adults in ways we can’t even yet imagine. There are many questions to be answered. How can we extend conversation to be context-based? How will some of the tools that reside in messaging platforms translate to voice-driven interaction? How will security and encryption meet privacy and compliance standards for healthcare.

It is indeed very early but we will see, we must see, a senior living niche evolve that will surely drive adoption as value is uncovered.

“This is Boomer Chatbot. See you in the future!”

About the Author


Heidi Culbertson is the co-founder and CEO of Marvee. Prior to founding Marvee, Heidi spent the previous 18 years at the forefront of mobile technology and mobile app adoption, leading sales and business development teams at multiple startups, growth-stage mobile companies, AT&T and Sprint. Prior to that, Heidi spent 15 years as a professional tennis player, coach and industry consultant. Heidi graduated with a B.A. from Miami University in Oxford, OH.  In 2016, Marvee was awarded the Judges Choice winner at the AARP-sponsored Florida Caregiver Pitch Competition and was also selected as one of six startups to pitch at the Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit Business Plan competition.

To learn more about Marvee, visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.