A new journalistic experiment helped a Nepali transgender woman to have a voice she always wanted to have. Reporter Marc Lajoie put together the experimental project, which harnesses the power of IBM’s groundbreaking artificial intelligence Watson, so that people are able to speak to virtual Bhumika.
“It’s then interpreted by Watson and matched to different video segments. A video is then edited together in real-time and delivered, to answer your questions about her life, activism, and country,” the creator explained.
The journalist realizes that having interviews with trans people is a very subtile deal, because there are anatomical and physiological issues which are uncomfortable for them to discuss. He recalled: “Because of the nature of the project, I had to ask these questions anyway. My role was to anticipate audience questions, and I had made a list of questions collected from colleagues and friends. Sure enough, people were curious about sex reassignment surgery, transitioning and other highly personal subjects. Every time I asked a sensitive question, I prefaced it by suggesting that if she found the question inappropriate, she could instead explain why a transgender person might be uncomfortable answering such a question. In that way, the project could double as an educational experience, teaching good manners when talking with transgender people. But to my surprise, Bhumika said she did not mind answering even the questions I had most dreaded asking.”