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Designing and Evaluating PocketBot for Long-Distance Relationships (LDRs)

Many couples navigate the challenges of long-distance relationships (LDRs), and the emergence of "couple technologies" aims to facilitate and maintain relational practices in such scenarios. Chatbots hold significant potential in mediating interactions between individuals. However, there is limited understanding of whether and how chatbots can effectively support LDRs. This case study presents a two-phase research project focused on designing and evaluating PocketBot, a chatbot designed to provide effective interventions for couples in long-distance relationships. See the full paper here!

Role: Lead User Experience Researcher

Project Goals:

1. To design a chatbot, PocketBot, tailored for mediating interactions in long-distance relationships.

2. To assess the feasibility, effectiveness, and potential pitfalls of using PocketBot in real-world scenarios.

Methodologies Utilized:

Phase I: Design and Pilot

1. Need-finding Interviews:

  • Conducted in-depth interviews to understand the specific needs, challenges, and preferences of individuals in long-distance relationships.

  • Extracted insights to inform the design of PocketBot.

2. Iterative Design Process: 

  • Utilized an iterative approach to refine and shape the functionality and features of PocketBot based on insights gathered from need-finding interviews.

3. Pilot Study with 11 Participants: 

  • Implemented an initial version of PocketBot and conducted a pilot study with 11 participants to gather initial feedback on its usability and functionality.

  • Iteratively refined PocketBot based on user feedback.

Phase II: Field Trial and Exit Interviews

1. Week-long Field Trial with 18 Participants (Nine LDR Couples):

  • Distributed PocketBot to nine long-distance couples to use in their day-to-day interactions over a week.

  • Monitored usage patterns, collected qualitative feedback, and observed how PocketBot influenced their communication.

2. Exit Interviews:

  • Conducted in-depth interviews with participants after the field trial to gain deeper insights into their experiences, preferences, and any challenges encountered while using PocketBot.

Key Findings:

1. Knock-on-the-door Feature:

  • Allowed couples to know when to resume an interaction after evading a conflict.

  • Preferred by certain participants, particularly those with stoic personalities.

2. Humor Feature:

  • Introduced to add a lighthearted touch to couples' conversations.

  • Universally favored by all participants, although perceptions varied due to different cultural and language backgrounds.

3. Deep Talk Feature:

  • Enabled couples at different relational stages to engage in conversations about sensitive topics.

  • Resulted in surprising discoveries, even for couples who had been in relationships for several years.


The research findings highlight the potential of conversational-based couple technologies, exemplified by PocketBot, in supporting emotional communication within long-distance relationships. The iterative design process and rigorous evaluation methodologies employed in this study provide a strong foundation for future developments in this domain. This case study showcases the effectiveness of user-centered design and evaluation in creating technology that addresses the unique needs of individuals in long-distance relationships.

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