COVID19: Official updates, verified by a doctor, delivered using AI

By Sindhuja Balaji

Highlights

Bangalore-based startup CoRover has developed a new feature called AskDoc.ai, which uses a mix of government data and insights from a medical specialist to verify authentic information to users, leveraging AI, ML, NLP and Deep Learning

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Nearly a billion people are under government-enforced lockdown. While urban dwellers with fulltime jobs continue to work from home, there’s a significant amount of the population with a whole lot of time on hand as several businesses have halted operations abruptly. But whether one works remotely or has time to spare, there is no denying that there are underlying tones of worry and anxiety about the COVID19 situation.

The number of cases are on the increase in India – just today, more than 1,000 new cases were reported. The total number of confirmed cases in India are 12.380 with 414 deaths. With the lockdown officially extended until May 3, people need to exercise caution and continue updating themselves with accurate information.

While some startups like vPhrase Analytics are accessing government data and publicly available datasets to ensure citizens can receive legitimate information about COVID19, Bangalore-based CoRover has gone a notch ahead. They have launched a new feature called AskDoc.ai – this is an AI-based video bot which addresses the most commonly asked queries on COVID19, transmission, contagion, preventive measures and common treatments. 

Founder Ankush Sabharwal says that most queries surrounding COVID19 are fairly standard and having a bot to disseminate this information, verified by a medical specialist, would greatly help citizens, and alleviate the load off doctors who would be needed in critical care.

With Askdoc.ai, data provided by WHO, MoHFW, GoI and ICMR is gathered, and Artificial Intelligence and NLP techniques are utilized to dispense it in an easily digestible manner. In addition, they have brought on board a doctor – Dr. Pratik Patil, a physician specializing in infectious diseases at Bangalore’s Fortis Hospital – to be able to speak to people, adding a much-needed personalized element to providing information. The responses are automated, to commonly asked questions about COVID19 with specifics derived from firsthand data from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. This feature was developed keeping in mind how Indians are comfortable procuring treatment from a known doctor, and seek expert help based on familiarity with a physician. 

“Indians like to see and know their doctors, often times they build a rapport with them. This is very different from countries like UK where the NHS directly manages doctor-patient interactions. This is why we approached a doctor, who is qualified to analyse infectious diseases and could allay fears of citizens face to face,” says founder Ankush Sabharwal.

Sabharwal believes this time is essential to utilize technology to assuage the fears and concerns of citizens. “Right now, there is too much information doing the rounds. A lot of information is coming through channels like WhatsApp and other social networking platforms – not a lot of it is true. Meanwhile, you’d be surprised to know how much verified information is available on government sites. They are updated almost every day with new guidelines on COVID19 and managing its fallout. This is in addition to WHO’s daily press briefings and updates from authorized bodies like ICMR.”

This led Sabharwal and his team to aggregate the data, and disseminate information based on user queries using proprietary NLP and AI tools developed inhouse.

How Does The AI Architecture Work?

The patent-protected AI architecture uses a combination of Artificial Intelligence Markup Language, Natural Language Processing, Deep Learning and Machine Learning. When a query comes in, these technologies work in tandem to produce a deep multi-task learning, which can then be resolved by either a standard reply or a live chat. In addition, the new language CBML (Chatbot Mark-up Language) makes it very convenient for anyone who knows English to create a conversational bot having contextual dialogue and workflow management. This language defines the journeys by just using pipe sign (|) & zero (0). The bot can be trained using proprietary CBML (Chatbot Markup Language), which can also be integrated in just 10 mins with any website, app (iOS, Android), Facebook Messenger, Slack, Google Assistant, Email, SMS, Line, WhatsApp, IVR, Twitter, Skype any available APIs & more.

Sabharwal has also developed these capabilities in a number of vernacular languages like Hindi, Tamil, Gujarati, Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi, Urdu, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu since there are a lot of citizens who may not be able to follow all government updates in English. There are a number of expats living in India too, so for their benefit, the team has added languages like Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, French and Japanese. They are looking to add more languages in the coming days.

A new feature has been added where a user can find out the state-wise tally of deaths, cured cases and COVID19 positive cases, per the data issued by the MoHFW.

A Unique Understanding Of The Indian Mindset Through AI & NLP

With more than 200 million unique users and 20 billion interactions, CoRover works with a range of customers in sectors like IT, ecommerce, automation, fintech. Specifically, its chatbots are being used by a range of government bodies such as IRCTC, KSRTC, NPCI, ATC and NGL – all of which helped make its conversational platform more robust and agile to take on a large volume of conversations in limited time periods. Sabharwal adds that the engine is now very intuitive and understands the queries largely posed by Indians, especially in vernacular languages, enabling it to make its responses more accurate and precise.

It took Sabharwal around three weeks to get features up and running on AskDoc.ai, and he admits that his experience from working on projects like AskDisha for IRCTC were extremely helpful. AskDisha is the chatbot powered by Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing, implemented across the IRCTC website and mobile app. It holds the unique distinction of being one of India’s most accessed chatbots.

He adds, “As this is not just about the technology, it is also about the billions of interactions, which give us multiple intents, utterances and entities to build a sound AI virtual Assistant for India.”

About the author

Sindhuja Balaji

Senior Content Writer

Sindhuja Balaji is a Senior Content Writer with India AI. She has 10 years of experience as a journalist in print, digital & television media, covering technology, business, culture and city affairs. Prior to joining India AI, she led Content, Social Media & PR Outreach initiatives for the NASSCOM Center of Excellence for IoT & AI. She particularly enjoys exploring the potential of advanced technologies and their impact on the economy, business & policy development

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