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  • Writer's pictureJohn Ennis

Eye on AI - October 2nd, 2020

Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!


This week, we’ll be focusing on two unique uses for voice AI technology, including how scientists have begun homing in on auditory cues to diagnose mental and physical diseases, and an Aigora-featured article detailing how marketers are conducting at-home consumer research surveys.


Coronavirus & Other Diseases Identified Through Voice Diagnosis

We begin this week with an article out of titled “Alexa, do I have COVID-19?”, which details how researchers are finding new ways to diagnose COVID and a multitude of other diseases through voice analysis.

Over the past decade, scientists have been using AI and machine-learning to identify potential vocal biomarkers of a wide variety of conditions, including dementia, depression, Parkinson's, and any number of neurological diseases, even heart disease, and may one day be advanced enough to accurately diagnose anyone within speaking distance of an Alexa.

Vocalis, one of those companies, developed an app that detected flare-ups of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. When the call went out that researchers were looking for new ways to diagnose COVID-19, their researchers began training their algorithms to diagnose potential symptoms of the coronavirus, training their AI on voice samples of infected patients. By mid-summer, they had over 1,500 samples to begin its pilot COVID-19 screening tool.

“The tool…. is not intended to provide a definitive diagnosis, but to help clinicians triage potential cases, identifying people who might be most in need of testing, quarantine or in-person medical care,” writes Nature contributor Emily Anthens. “‘Can we help with our AI algorithm?’ asks Tal Wenderow, the president and chief executive of Vocalis. ‘This is not invasive, it’s not a drug, we’re not changing anything. All you need to do is speak.’”

The pilot program for COVID-19 diagnosis is still in its early stages, as are other at-home diagnosis apps. But it’s their potential that has researchers excited.

“These systems could…. allow epidemiologists to use smartphones to track the spread of disease, and turn smart speakers into in-home medical devices,” continues Anthens. “…. But automated vocal analysis is still a new field, and has a number of potential pitfalls, from erroneous diagnoses to the invasion of personal and medical privacy. Many studies remain small and preliminary, and moving from proof-of-concept to product won’t be easy.”

While the research is young, its potential is monumental and could lead to a world where voice-assist technology accurately diagnoses diseases before any symptoms simply by identifying fluctuations in their voice – imagine the lives that could be saved with that sort of technology. We’re still a ways from that outcome, and more understanding, regulation, and transparency around how data is stored and shared is likely needed before users will feel comfortable utilizing such technology.

The Benefits of Smart Speakers for Consumer Research

Scientists aren’t the only ones making use of voice AI. Market researchers have also begun utilizing smart speakers to conduct at-home consumer research surveys. In a recent article by PLAY featuring Aigora’s smart-speaker survey technology, titled “hey Google, how do I use a smart speaker to enrich my consumer research?”, contributor Katherine Savage explains how smart speaker surveys work, and why they’re so effective in conducting consumer surveys.

“Similar to talking to a person, smart speaker surveys have the potential to remove some communication barriers and give participants a better survey experience,” writes Savage. “.... For hands-free tasks, like reviewing a detergent while washing up, [speaker surveys] could work as with other short surveys that require short, simple responses…. in the future, voice assistant surveys have the opportunity to become even more engaging by using data collected on the respondent to translate the survey into a tone that is tailored to the individual.”

Typically, consumer surveys take place in one of three environments: in a central location, in-home, or on location where products are purchased. These methods often feel intrusive and don’t typically produce accurate survey results; in fact, some professionals have even begun questioning the effectiveness of customer surveys.

Now imagine consumers at-home or on the move using products in real-time, then answering questions about those products as they’re using them. Does that sound like a more effective way to obtain more honest consumer surveys? Exactly. Surveys at-home are less intrusive, significantly less expensive and time consuming for researchers, and more personal – and thus, more effective.

With companies doubling down on machine learning during the pandemic, many are looking for ways to reach their customers remotely. Speaker surveys give them that opportunity while offering them a new method to keep consumers engaged. To learn more about how speaker surveys work and how to conduct them at your company, check out Aigora’s Smart-Speaker Survey page.

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