November 29, 2023

Kai Koerber was a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when a gunman murdered 14 students and three staff members there on Valentine’s Day in 2018. Seeing his peers – and himself – struggle with returning to normal, he wanted to do something to help people manage their emotions on their own terms.

While some of his classmates at the Parkland, Florida, school have worked on advocating for gun control, entered politics, or simply took a step back to heal and focus on their studies, Mr. Koerber’s background in technology – he’d originally wanted to be a rocket scientist – led him in a different direction: to build a smartphone app.

The result was Joy, which uses artificial intelligence to suggest bite-sized mindfulness activities for people based on how they are feeling. The algorithm Mr. Koerber’s team built is designed to recognize how a person feels from the sound of their voice – regardless of the words or language they speak.

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