I recently ran across Geppetto Avatars, a company that creates intelligent virtual characters. The avatars have many potential use cases, but currently the company seems to be focusing on the health care space.
Sophie is a compelling 3D virtual character that interacts with patients in the role of physician’s assistant or medical advisor. The underlying technology for Sophie includes speech recognition and natural language processing that enables Sophie to understand what patients are saying. In the video demos on the Geppetto Avatars website, the virtual assistant appears on a web screen and engages in a realistic conversation with the patient.
Sophie has access to the patient’s medical records and asks prompting question to ascertain the patient’s current condition. Based on the patient response, Sophie can ask additional questions to understand details about improvements or problems with the patient’s medical situation. Sophie’s user interface includes a method for patients to take photos of problem areas, such as swollen hands or rashes, and submit them for physician examination.
Sophie can review the patient’s medications with them and ask if they are still providing the desired improvement. She can inquire about whether the patient is doing any physical therapy exercises that may have been assigned.
Sophie can also pick up on visual and intonation cues to assess the patient’s mood. If the patient is upset or unhappy, Sophie senses this and adjusts the conversation accordingly. In addition, she can issue questionnaires to the patient to gather more data about their current condition.
If Sophie works as well in real life as she does in the demo videos on the Geppetto Avatars website, the technology could be of huge benefit to health care practitioners and their patients. Typical physicians have so many patients in their practice that it’s hard for them to spend adequate time with each patient. Having a virtual assistant like Sophie would offer patients a way to get the attention they need, when they need it, while ensuring that the physician stays up to date on their condition.
Why is the company called Geppetto Avatars? I don’t know for sure, but it’s interesting that Geppetto was the name of the woodcarver in Pinocchio who made the wooden puppet boy that came to life. These intelligent avatars aren’t flesh and blood, but they can support humans by acting as a reliable proxy to their health care provider.