This morning, Planned Parenthood announced a new sexual health chatbot for teens called Roo. Developed in conjunction with digital product agency Work & Co, users can text the 24 hour chatbot with questions about their sexual health, relationships, bodies, and more to receive answers within seconds.
In a statement announcing the service, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America Dr. Leana Wen said, “Developed together with teens, our new one-of-a-kind chatbot is another way Planned Parenthood is expanding ways of delivering personalized, immediate, and accurate information to young people."
While people of any age may use the service, Roo was specifically designed for those aged 13 to 17. "To create Roo, Planned Parenthood listened to what teens said they want and need, and looked at their habits online," Ambreen Molitor, Senior Director at Planned Parenthood's Digital Products Lab, tells Broadly. "They told us they’re often nervous talking to their parents or friends about sexual health, and wanted somewhere that they could ask their questions anonymously and get reliable answers."
Roo is not Planned Parenthood's first anonymous text to chat service. Last year, a study assessing Planned Parenthood's original Chat/Text feature concluded that the service was successful as "a tool to promote health equity." Molitor explains that Roo is an extension of that service based on its efficacy, but now geared specifically towards teens and available 24/7, unlike its predecessor.
In a way, Roo is an experiment, explains Molitor. As users engage with Roo, the AI-powered chatbot's abilities will evolve to answer more questions. If a question is too complex for the bot, it will let the user know that it does not understand. "This is a new product—and part of trying out a new tool is that we won't have all the answers until enough people try it out," she says. "The more people use Roo, the better it will be. That’s part of what we’re exploring: how well and how consistently a chatbot is able to answer health questions."