So, Planned Parenthood Has Launched a Sex-Ed Chatbot

Not to be confused with that other kind of sex bot

Ever been to a Planned Parenthood, for any reason? People who have are probably familiar with one or two services, but not the whole gamut: pregnancy and STD tests, STD treatment, mammograms and pap smears, birth control, cancer screening, hormone therapy, infertility services, general healthcare, and—of course—abortions. 

That's a lot. People who've never been to one likely know even less—or worse, mostly just associate it with abortion. 

Fear makes for strong branding, and that can be dangerous for a nonprofit that provides critical health services to millions of people who can't otherwise afford care. 

But in the last couple of years, Planned Parenthood's worked hard to make education a central component of its identity. Last year it released Tracking Trump, a tool that enables people to monitor the current administration for decisions it might make related to our health or bodies. 

That was created by Work & Co, and the pair have joined forces again to conceive something new: Roo, a sex-ed chatbot. 

Depending on where you live and what school you attend, American sex ed leaves something to be desired. To start, in many places it's optional; in California, our parents had to opt in for us to get any at all. What's more, it's often laced with a creepy and deceptive moral bent. 

(We once had a teacher designate a "couple" to sit on a table, meant to represent the marriage bed. Everyone else in class was told they were a past partner of the couple; as the exercise wore on, they all had to climb onto the table with them. The lesson? "Everyone you've ever slept with joins you on your honeymoon." Seriously.) 

Some people can trust their parents, and some can't. You probably mostly can't trust your crappy teenage friends. The result of all this is that sex ed is murky, and a lot gets left untaught until you're in a situation you probably don't want to be in. 

Roo's job is to diffuse all that, giving teens a private and safe place to pursue curiosity without judgment. To this end, the bot's brand identity is friendly and warm, outfitted with its own emotional iconography. 

Work & Co conducted research directly with teens to work out what they'd actually use. Based on their findings, they orchestrated the product strategy, bot design and algorithmic training on topics and behaviors. Roo covers sex, masturbation, periods and relationships, among other related topics, but will also build its library as interactions highlight holes in its knowledge.

Here's some more super-positive, if dorkily safety-oriented, Roo messaging: 

Roo builds on Planned Parenthood's current platform, "Care, No Matter What." It reinforces who the 100-year-old brand is and what value it offers, which is crucial in a time when attitudes toward it can be hostile. 

It launches today, right within the week of Roe v. Wade's 46th anniversary.