IBM Watson: Arthritis sufferers to ditch painful typing for AI voice chat

By Kitty Knowles 14 March 2017
IBM Watson partners with arthritis charity to take the pain out of typing. Pic: iStock/FredFroese

IBM Watson joins Arthritis Research UK to provide virtual voice assistants.

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, affects more than 8m Brits: the pain, stiffness and swelling that comes with the condition can be crippling – both physically and mentally.

Every year, Arthritis Research UK’s website receives thousands of personal questions about the disorder. But problematically, as millions of patients experience arthritis in their hands, typing lengthy questions can prove difficult.

That’s why the organisation has partnered with IBM Watson – to minimise the stress of searching, and eventually, take typing out of the equation.

A virtual voice assistant

The artificially intelligent IBM Watson will be used to create a ‘virtual assistant’ for patients, the charity announced this week.

Currently 300 people are participating in a pilot, where patients type questions to a virtual chatbot, reducing the pain of endless internet searching.

Following this, Arthritis Research UK plans to use Watson to create a smart voice assistant that will be able to understand questions delivered via speech (no arduous keyboard typing needed).

Already the AI system can offer personalised advice, general information, and exercise tips that people can print out or save online, and it is soon going to be expanded to inform patients about diet and treatment options.

“This innovative new service that will enable us to have conversations with anyone seeking help, that we simply wouldn’t be able to answer so quickly otherwise,” Liam O’Toole, CEO at Arthritis Research UK.

“We’re confident that this new virtual assistant will help more people push back the ways arthritis limits their lives.”

Most people know someone stuck by arthritis; it’s great that technology is putting power back into patients’ hands.