AI-based virtual assistants are evolving quickly. Now, increasingly more effort and resources are being put toward making them emotionally intelligent – able to pick up on subtle cues in speech, inflection, or gesture and expression to assess a person’s health and well-being. Nurse avatars and social robots – such as Catalia Health’s Mabu, an emotion-aware personal care companion for terminally ill patients – are already proving their abilities to enhance patient-centered health care environments around the world, making routine processes more efficient, and improving experiences and outcomes. But their full potential is even more profound and far from realized, believes Dr. Rana el Kaliouby.
Emotion AI, she says, provides an opportunity to transform numerous aspects of health and well-being, from telemedicine and drug efficacy to mental health research and autism support. By reading into a vocal tone or detecting facial expressions, for example, emotion AI-enabled platforms could detect depression or even potentially underlying chronic conditions, such as heart disease. In telemedicine, mood-aware wearables could contribute to monitoring mental health and well-being, perhaps helping those with depression track their emotional state and share that data with their doctor.