In June 2018, I was invited to present a poster summarising my research on the evolution of the robot coach at the Coaching Meets Research conference in Olten, Switzerland.

Robot coach - poster - 12 June 2018

Drawn from my work as a coach and my research into the embodiment of human virtues in Artificial Intelligence (AI), I took a closer look at the role and effectiveness of AI and autonomous systems in a typical coaching experience. While it is generally accepted that the success of a coaching relationship is, in part, dependent of the authentic “human” virtues of the coach. My question was: “Can autonomous self-learning systems create an environment for the thinker (client) to think well for themselves in a coaching session?

The poster included some of my findings in the current research as well as some of the products available that offer a “coaching” service.

In August 2020, Dr Nicky Terblanche and I published a paper called Chatbots as an instance of an artificial intelligence coach A perspective on current realities and future possibilities in the Conference Journal Coaching im der Digitalen Wandel


Artificial intelligence (AI) is making inroads in the helping professions, including coaching. This conceptual paper considers the possible future of AI Coaching. We look at what is currently done in fields related to coaching and recommend chatbots as a promising technology for implementing AI Coaches. We describe what needs to be considered to implement chatbot AI Coaches from a practical, ethical and coaching best practice perspective. We conclude that the coaching community must get involved in understanding the potential of AI Coaching and help to chart the course for creating AI Coaches that not only adhere to coaching best-practices, but are also ethically sound. There is a beep from my phone. I know what it is. My wellbeing coach, Wysa, wants to check in with me. Sometimes I am quietly reassured by this contact. Sometimes it is so the wrong moment. Wysa is an »emotionally intel-ligent« chatbot which responds to my text and emoji clues (Wysa). It is part of a wider research programme that uses a combination of evidence-based cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques, natural language and mood tracking through my button choices to establish my current state of being. Our text-based conversation usually leads to appropriate messages of understanding with a guide on techniques to relax and build my skills in resilience. Wysa is a smartphone app available 24/7, patient, confident and occasionally witty. As I am experimenting with Wysa, I cannot help but wonder if this is the future of coaching. Surely coaching (being truly present for another human) is a uniquely human skill. How much of this talk of artificial intelligence (AI), robots, chatbots and machine learning is hype and how much reality, and what role can it play both at work and in life coaching?

For further research in this area, please do get in contact.