Self-awareness class inspires intention app

May 11, 2018, University of Michigan
Students Tristan Neeb, Aklavya Kashyap, Shayan Shafii and Sean Dew talk about next steps with their instructor, Robert Pasick of the Ross School, on the goal tracking voice assistant they created for use with Amazon’s Alexa. Credit: Randy Maschaka

Inspired by a class on managing professional relationships, five recent University of Michigan graduates are developing an app that would mesh with Alexa to help nudge people when they're out of sync with what they want.

The app, or skill as Amazon calls it, has a tentative name—Iris—and is an intention tracking voice assistant for use with Alexa-enabled devices. The team is working on a longer name to comply with the online retailer's policy. They expect the skill to be available soon.

Students Tristan Neeb, who earned his finance degree from the Ross School this spring, and Sean Dew, who graduated with a dual major in economics and sustainable business, both worked closely with Rob Pasick, a lecturer at the Ross School, who teaches the course that delves into self-awareness.

Pasick recruited Aklavya Kashyap, Reid Ovis and Shayan Shafii, who graduated with degrees in computer science this spring. He pitched the idea during their class on mobile app development for entrepreneurs taught by Elliot Soloway, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

Pasick's course helps students understand how to create and manage high-quality professional relationships. And much of that understanding comes from self-awareness, he said. His book, "Self-Aware: a Guide for Success in Work and Life," and a companion journal guide the coursework.

"A lot of students take my class because they are questioning what they want career-wise and what they want for themselves," he said.

Neeb, who had a busy school schedule and ice hockey practice every evening, said an app like Iris should be on every college student's list of must-haves.

"Looking back, if I had better time management in my freshman year things would have been easier," Neeb said. "The lessons and skills learned from the course helped me decide what I truly wanted out of my career and my employer."

Kashyap said that the team initially wanted the application to be a conversational persona, that could motivate and reach out to users. But they realized that this was too broad a task, given the time period.

"We created a that provides a structure for setting goals and tracking performance with consistency. It can set, organize and prioritize goals, update users on metrics, and send them texts to remind them of their goals all through Amazon Alexa," Kashyap said.

Shafii, who majored in business and computer science, said that he used to think about success as something largely dictated by composure and intelligence.

"I've come to find that the most important thing is going about your day very deliberately," he said. "My best days were the ones where I knew in advance what I was going to do every hour of the day."

Besides learning the importance of sustained determination, Dew said that college students—the targeted audience for the skill—often get so caught up in their classes and busy schedules that life can go by in a whirl of activity.

"Focusing on what you're doing and who you are becoming is vital," Dew said.

Explore further: Amazon has mitigations so that Alexa does not turn into eavesdropper

Related Stories

"Alexa, can we have a real conversation?"

April 13, 2018

Ask her what she likes and she has an answer ready for you: "Holy rusted metal, Batman, I enjoy science. Especially astronomy." Ask her to tell you about herself more generally? She's still figuring that one out: "There's ...

Alexa, check my security settings

May 10, 2018

Do you trust the Internet of Things? More to the point, do you trust "Alexa" the voice-activated software in the Amazon Echo and related IoT devices? There is not necessarily any particular reason not to trust Alexa and Amazon, ...

Recommended for you

Study: With Twitter, race of the messenger matters

February 23, 2019

When NFL player Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice, the ensuing debate took traditional and social media by storm. University of Kansas researchers have ...

After a reset, Сuriosity is operating normally

February 23, 2019

NASA's Curiosity rover is busy making new discoveries on Mars. The rover has been climbing Mount Sharp since 2014 and recently reached a clay region that may offer new clues about the ancient Martian environment's potential ...

Researchers engineer a tougher fiber

February 22, 2019

North Carolina State University researchers have developed a fiber that combines the elasticity of rubber with the strength of a metal, resulting in a tougher material that could be incorporated into soft robotics, packaging ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.