I have been struck by the recent advertising for virtual assistants, such as Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. And if you haven’t see the funny take on Amazon Echo being used with older Americans on Saturday Night Live, it’s worth a look- Amazon Echo – SNL. A recent report estimated the market for virtual assistants and avatars (human representations in videos, portals, and other consumer support materials) at $750.0 million in 2015 (see Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) Market Analysis By Type).
So it is not surprising that virtual assistants and avatars are making their way into the health and human service field. There are some recent reports to take note of:
- A virtual interviewer in the form of a computer-generated avatar has proven to help veterans disclose post-traumatic stress disorder (see Virtual Interviewer Helps Veterans Disclose Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
- A therapy that uses computer avatars to represent the voices in the heads of consumers with schizophrenia is proving effective in early studies (see Avatars Can Help Schizophrenia Patients Control Threatening Voices).
- An artificial intelligence company, ObEN, that is partnering with health care organizations to develop virtual reality experiences for older adults and consumers with mental illness (see Who Needs Siri Or Alexa When You Can Have A ‘Digital Avatar’ Of Yourself? Mind Blown Alert).
- A personal digital health avatar to serve as a mental health coach (see Avatars From Adelaide-Based Clevertar On Way As Health Coaches).
And investments in market are large. San Francisco startup Sense.ly announced that it raised $8 million in venture funding for its virtual nurse technology (see Virtual nurse app Sense.ly raises $8 million from investors including the Mayo Clinic). And, Mequon-based startup Intelligent Digital Avatars is currently working on raising $2 million for avatars for use in the health care space (see iDAvatars raising about $2 million).
Like many disruptive technologies, the opportunities for virtual assistants and avatars is to both improve the consumer experience and reduce costs. I thought the comments made by Reenita Das of Frost & Sullivan’s Transformation Health practice (see Reframing Healthcare Trends For 2017, See Things Differently), showed how professionals in the field are viewing the opportunity behind artificial intelligence-driven avatars:
The holographic projection of a human doctor, backed by artificial intelligence technologies, will allow for it to handle several queries simultaneously. Beyond answering queries, it could schedule appointments for a physical checkup with a doctor in your network, and share notes of your conversation with a doctor, in a digital-physical care coordination model.
I don’t think this is saying that professionals in health and human service space will be replaced by artificial intelligence and avatars. Rather, professionals will be augmented by this technology (I like the expression “augmented intelligence” as used in IBM: AI Should Stand For ‘Augmented Intelligence’). While the many popular consumer virtual assistants may seem limited in scope, it is just a matter of time until forward-looking managers in health and human services figure out how to use the technology to improve their “value.” For more, check out these resources from the OPEN MINDS Industry Library:
- Cognitive Computing & Big Data: How They Will Shape The Future Of Care Delivery
- From iPods To Cloud Computing – 2001 To Now
- Ready Or Not, Cognitive Computing Will Change Your Organization
- The Future Of Care Coordination? It’s Elementary, Watson
- Robot + Watson = ?
- Facebook Uses AI Tools For Suicide Prevention
- UnitedHealth Launches Optum Ventures Fund For Digital Health Care & Machine Learning
- Brain Power, A Neurotechnology Startup Focused On Autism, Achieved 500% Of Their Crowdfunding Goal In The First 24 Hours
- Digital Tech Cutting Edge – Moving From Smartphone App To Wearable
- IBM Research & UC San Diego Collaborate To Use Artificial Intelligence To Support Older Adult Independent Living
For more on planning ahead for tech, join my OPEN MINDS colleagues, Alsten Tauro and Jim Gargiulo, on February 16, 2018 for the executive seminar, Leveraging Technology For Competitive Advantage: An OPEN MINDS Seminar On Best Practice Technology Implementation, at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort in Clearwater Beach, Florida.