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How Covid-19 created an Artificial Intelligence explosion

Don't worry, we speak : Español (Spanish), too!

Contxto – Artificial intelligence (AI) technology was already quite the sought-after technology of 2020. Examples included the launch of SoftBank’s program to train professionals across Latin America in data science and AI. Not to mention the multiple cases of funding for AI startups like Brazilian Kzas and  Colombian VOIQ.

However coronavirus (Covid-19) has further illustrated the use of AI in an array of ways. So today we’ll be reviewing some of the problems Latam startups have addressed through machine learning.

AI “sees” you

Startups across the region have been working to use computer vision to measure people’s temperatures and overall health at a distance. 

Bolivian View-Factor and Salvadoran Spot.io use this tech to monitor temperatures in high-risk areas like airports and public spaces. Mexican Roomie IT has developed a robot that can make its way through a clinic, talk to patients, and start screening their symptoms.

Meanwhile, Colombian Predicto AI wants to democratize access to this type of tech by making it available on cell phones so businesses can monitor employees’ health.

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Filtering through issues

Triage through AI has been a common application during the pandemic. Rightly so, this approach has been critical in keeping people at home and not rushing to a nearby clinic. It may even serve as a placebo to ease their concerns. 

The government in Chile has understood the usefulness of AI bots and partnered up with startup Cognitiva to help people sort through their symptoms.

The data submitted into these systems also helps build the algorithm’s understanding of the disease. In addition, public health officials benefit because they can gauge overall levels of infection without involving medical personnel.

Having someone to talk to

AI chatbots are also proving to be companions for users to talk about the mental health issues they’re facing. And Latam has plenty of startups that have developed virtual assistants that do just that. Examples include Brazilians Ukor and Vitalk, as well as Mexican Yana.

These basic applications come at no cost and allow people to vent their emotional concerns. If additional help is needed, they’re also programmed to channel patients to human therapists. 

In any case, these bots may be the first form of therapy many people ever experienced.

A permanent place for AI?

Given all these applications, decision-makers may be reserving a more permanent place for this form of technology in their policies and institutions. AI may pave the way toward relieving over-loaded healthcare systems. It also has a role to play where mental health is concerned, perhaps even more so than before. 

“Unfortunately, once the pandemic ends, mental health issues will continue to rise,” notes Andrea Campos, founder of healthtech Yana

“Many people who suffered anxiety will be susceptible to depression, [as well as] those that closed their businesses, people who lost family members or friends to Covid.”

Campos explained that through self-isolation, people have also found more time for self-care, and therapy is a part of that.

A compliment, not a replacement

At the end of the day, no bot can ever substitute the attention living, breathing doctors provide, they can free up their time to offer more quality care.

Within Latin America, Brazil and Chile are the countries best poised to lead the AI revolution in healthcare.

Their respective governments have shown openness to this type of technology and there are plenty of venture capital firms to fuel startups.

If anything, Brazil has an advantage because of its large population which translates to a potentially larger pool of data for algorithms to crunch on.

Related articles: Tech and startups from Mexico!

-ML

Mariana López
My topic darlings are startup management, edtech, and all-things pop culture. J Balvin is Latin America's best reggaetonero and I dare you to convince me otherwise.

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