“Alexa, I’m depressed.” The idea that a tabletop virtual assistant such as Alexa or Siri knows or cares how you’re feeling sounds straight out of some neurotic comedy. Today, at least.

Mental health is a brave new frontier for artificial-intelligence and machine-learning algorithms driven by “big data.” Before long, if some forward-looking psychologists, doctors and venture-capital investors have their way, your therapist could be a virtual human able to listen, counsel and even bill for that 50-minute hour.

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