Using AI For Good - By Jo Vempati and Ramakant Vempati

The InnovationNXT Talk at the Wiley Global Innovation Conclave, 2019 was delivered by Jo Vempati and Ramakant Vempati, Co-Founders, Wysa, who shed light on the significance of using AI for good, to tackle a disruptive future. Their primary focus lay towards the degrading levels of mental health within the working class.

In the world that we cohabit, one out of four people suffers from mental health issues. Each one of these people has admitted that they need a solution to their problems. Moreover, one in ten people has felt the need for an organizational solution, encompassing every employee. This statistic reflects a little bit on where we are today, in India, and where we are globally in terms of mental health support.

Many organisations have already deployed an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). However, since 20% of the employees need something because of friction, the mere thought of being seen as vulnerable to another human being is difficult. Consequently, less than 1% of the organizations take up the EPA programme, even if the organization is providing it for free. As compared to the 55000 therapists in the U.K., we have only 5500 therapists for 1.3 billion people across India. On average, there prevails a year-long wait before one can see a therapist in the National Health Services (NHS) - UK. Even the 5500 therapists seem to be underbooked.

WYSA realized that people don’t really want to talk to other human beings after they ran a pilot that was all about detecting depression in rural India. They also realized that one in 30 people would end up talking about therapy and the rest would prescribe antidepressants. Such a scenario led them to think that instead, inducting an AI into the system would be of great significance. As one of the market leaders in AI, WYSA imagined empathy as the one thing that humans are better at than computers. But they found that humans are more comfortable being vulnerable in front of a computer.

Proceeding with the talk, Jo and Ramakant emphasized the need for a pilot with NHS (UK) in schools. The primary questions being raised were majorly focussed on the capability of AI to help cope with the scenario. Can a learning experience be created that actually listens to another person? The Co-Founders suggested that one can only help a person when their narrative changes and that is only possible when someone actually listens to their narrative. So, all WYSA hopes to do is listen to you and simulate a human conversation.

Going ahead, Jo shared a sample conversation of Wysa with the audience. WYSA could just be someone to talk to - someone who could help manage one’s day to day stress. It determines different conversations and triggers different responses as per the situation. Ramakant, then, took over to speak about exactly how WYSA plans out the future. He educated the esteemed audience on the clinical efficacy of WYSA and how they help people cope with mental issues. Thereon, he ran through WYSA’s present vision and work, enabling a new system by installing WYSA on people’s phones through the NHS. One of these studies was executed using a chat BOT on depression in a study group comprising of 1500 people. Before and after using the app, a 40% reduction was observed in the mental stress levels.

WYSA has saved 28 lives yet. Using innovation to solve human problems has always been the core of WYSA. People, who have availed their services, have written back to them saying that WYSA has prevented them from committing suicides. Such an inspiration drives Ramakant and Jo to work with USE cases (Employee wellness, young mothers, chronic diseases, young adults, and addiction) – and try and help people with a mental illness.

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