As founder and CEO of healthy grocery delivery service Hungryroot, Ben McKean has been investigating the power of AI technologies to improve his business. But with the launch of his new side project — an app called Every — McKean wants to explore the use of AI to help people establish deeper relationships with themselves and others and to find common ground.
Currently structured as a nonprofit, Every’s iOS app leverages AI technologies to create “thought-provoking games” aimed at self-discovery.
For example, all users begin with a game called “Inner Odyssey” that challenges you to pick a photo that best represents the place you’d like to explore, from options like a cobblestoned city street, a natural landscape featuring a river and trees, a fantastical castle, or a remote island. You’re then asked follow-up questions like who would you travel with, what role would you play, what advice for your trip resonates with you best and so on.
As you play, the app shows you how others respond to the same question, and when you finish you’re prompted to see who among your connections — that is, your uploaded contact list — also answered similarly.
McKean says the idea to create an app focused on human connection was an idea that’s been brewing for some time — particularly after the COVID pandemic led to a world where everyone felt more disconnected than ever.
“There’s a very large number of people who feel disconnected from even people very close to them,” he explains. “Fifty-eight percent of Americans report feeling like no one in their life knows them well, which was just a shocking stat. And 70% of Americans feel that distrust is hurting American society,” McKean notes, citing various stats on the loneliness epidemic and connection.
In addition, McKean says he also feels impacted by these issues through his own entrepreneurial experiences leading teams and finding how difficult it can be to form connections at work. In fact, McKean foresees the potential to tweak Every’s model for use in the workplace to help colleagues bond, but with fewer personal questions.
Despite the app’s focus on human connectivity, it may be a surprise, then, to learn that Every’s games were created using AI — specifically, by training large language models and leveraging technology from OpenAI and Midjourney. In addition to scratching his own itch, so to speak, McKean said this process helped him to develop his AI skills, which could impact his main business at Hungryroot, which is a heavily AI-driven company.
All the games in the app are inspired by a topic or a person, which is the initial input for the AI.
For the latter, the company is partnering with inspirational leaders for some of the topics, like Hector Guadalupe, founder of A Second U Foundation, which helps people develop skills to be successful in life after serving time in prison. The topic or the person is used to set the context for the generative AI. Then the team uses a structured format for the games they built into the prompts to create the questions. (Guadalupe’s AI-inspired game will release on October 25).
The AI’s output may still need some human intervention as the team has only been training their models for six months, McKean notes, but essentially, the AI creates the games in their entirety. The images that accompany the game’s questions are then created using Midjourney.
The plan is to release one new game every day — hence the app’s name — with each day of the week having a particular theme. For example, Monday’s games may be focused on careers, while Friday’s games may be about fun, Saturday’s games may be about family connections, and Sunday’s are about spirituality or philosophy. McKean says Every also intends the games to be tailored to timely events. So in the case of the upcoming presidential elections, you might see a game tied to politics, for example.
After playing the games, the app offers inspirational content to explore based on your responses, like videos that highlight particular topics — like pursuing your dreams or the importance of creativity.
Another tab in the app, “Map,” uses AI to generate a map of your traits based on the points you earn while playing Every’s games. After trying out the first game, the map informed me my top traits included things like reason and happiness in the simplest things, which I don’t think I’d dispute. You can also thumbs up and thumbs down its findings if you agree or disagree to improve its analysis.
The idea is that, by playing these games, you aren’t only developing more self-awareness, you’re also learning how you share common ground with other people you know, which could lead you to deepen those relationships. For instance, you might find an old friend also enjoys international travel or your colleague prioritizes humility in the workplace. As you learn from the insights the app shares, you may be inspired to take further action, like engaging in conversations about your discoveries.
“A lot of the mission around this is about facilitating connection with people — one to one connection — but it’s also about helping to surface common ground a little more holistically,” McKean says. “And so part of the belief is that if you present the same game to every single person, you’re able to actually find common ground between two people who may be very different people.”
Every was self-funded by McKean and is run by two women, Sarah McKean (Ben’s cousin) and Maya Valliath, while app development was handled through an outsourced firm. The plan for now is to run Every as a free app and side project. But if it takes off, McKean is leaving the door open to scale it as more of a business, potentially with investor backing.
The app has been running in beta since March, but today launched publicly on the App Store. It’s available as a free download with no in-app purchases.