Asya brings ethical ai to digitalwell ventures

    A divorce affects most families in strong way. For Latvian startup Asya it has been the driving force for a unique AI-based app helping couples communicate. Asya onboarding DigitalWell Ventures also breaks new ground as the first deep tech service in the accelerator.

    The Entry of Asya marks an important milestone for DigitalWell Ventures, being both the first Baltic and the first deep tech-based startup in the accelerator.

    – Asya puts the users emotional health in the center, by focusing on design and AI delivering useful intelligence to solve real life problems, whether you’re a couple with children or a corporate entity, says David Holm, Investment Manager at DigitalWell Ventures.

    Ariel A.Tabaks, co-founder of Asya, has great expectations of a fruitful cooperation:

    – We believe that with the help of DigitalWell Ventures we will be able to do amazing product launch in Sweden and Nordics. Their team is fast, task oriented not talk oriented, with specialist skills, and this is exactly what we like in acceleration programs.

    Identifying emotional context

    Asya is determined to spread the word of ethical AI. Their app “Closer to you” is designed to help couples get their communication on the right track, using audio emotion detection. Their AI has been trained by thousands and thousands of conversations, learning to identify the emotions behind what is said and how that is impacting communication.

    – People can fake emotions and say that they are ok even if they are not, but if you speak for a while it is hard to hide your true emotions, says Ariel A. Tabaks, who founded Asya together with his brother Evalds Urtans.

    Evalds Urtans (to the left) and his brothter Ariel A. Tabaks (to the right) with the Asya team.


    Evalds (Ph.D cand. from Riga Technical University) is the technical engineer and Ariel is the chief designer. But maybe as important as the cutting edge tech behind the app is the experience of their parents divorcing. That have convinced them of the need of good dialogue in a relationship, especially when raising young children and the magic from the first dates seems distant.

    – The app helps couples to start meaningful and fun conversations. Often it is trivial matters that causes problems. Our app helps couples to select good topics and keeps track of the tonality, how much they talk and listen. It is almost like a fitness app that gives you data so you can train and improve, says Ariel A. Tabaks.

    Designed by psychologists

    The topics and questions are designed by both psychologists and therapists, helping couples to touch even sensitive matters. A big inspiration for the app has also been the book “Permission to feel”, by Marc Brackett, founder of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

    – We have three basic ideas. First, the topics really matters. Second is that people spend so much time on social media plattforms that face to face-conversation is crucial. The third thing is awareness, when people know that the AI is listening they really want to preform good, says Ariel A. Tabaks.

    The progress of the conversation is illustrated by a flower, that flourish when the conversation does. The human-centric design has turned out to be very important, since the first user tests revealed that people did not respond well to statistics and labels of their expressed emotions.

    Ethical ideology

    Of course, there is still a chance that people could feel threatened by a machine evaluating conversations. That is why the concept of ethical AI is important for Asya. For instance, no actual conversation content is saved or transcribed, in contrast to many other popular apps.

    – It is also important to point out that there is no such thing as a “perfect person”. All humans have different baselines, and by entering your personal settings, the app takes this to account. We don’t want a future where humans rather have a relation with a machine than a human, says Ariel A. Tabaks.

    The accessibility of an app in comparison to visit a marriage counsellor (beside being much cheaper) is also making Ariel A. Tabaks hopeful that their service really can reach out and make a difference.

    – That’s also one of the ideas behind ethical AI, it should be available for everyone and not only for those who are well off. AI should empower everyday people, not big tech companies.


    Test your emotional intelligence at Asyas webbsite



    Det regionala projektet DigitalWell finansieras av Europeiska Unionen – Europiska regionala utvecklingsfonden. Syftet med DigitalWell är att vi tillsammans ska utveckla digitala lösningar för behov inom välfärden med användarens egenförmåga i fokus.