Many sci-fi films would have you believe the rise of the machines will bring about the end of humanity “for our own good”, however, it would appear the machines want to get us in good shape first.
A new trend of using artificial intelligence (AI) in wellness apps seems to be sweeping the app stores of your choice. They promise the use of the technology will give an enhanced performance and a intelligent assessment of what ails you on every health front imaginable.
Here is an example of three of them:
Ada is a personal health guide app that boasts it is so widely used it makes an assessment somewhere around the globe every three seconds.
The app asks you simple, yet relevant, questions. The answers are compared to thousands of similar cases around the world to find the closest diagnosis.
Although this might sound like a crowd-share app, based on the anxiety of hypochondriacs, Ada is also supported by a huge medical knowledge base that is a little more accurate than the ever-popular “it’s definitely cancer” website diagnosis.
Plus, thanks to a library that shares patient-friendly information and infographics, you are not flooded with a bunch of terms that make no sense to anyone who didn’t spend the better part of a decade at medical school.
Now that you have your sinus headaches correctly diagnosed, you can look to your fitness with the help of the Kaia Perfect Squat Challenge.
Through the use of your phone’s camera, motion-tracking technology, augmented reality and AI, the app follows your body’s movement as you work out and can see what you are getting up to.
Most of us who work out know the slightest misstep or misalignment can lead not only to not getting the desired results but to severe injuries. By tracking the alignment of key points on your body – shoulders, hips, elbows, knees and ankles – through your phone’s camera, the AI is able to give you audio instructions on how to correct your movements to perform the perfect squat.
Although limited at this stage to this single glute-shaping exercise, it is only a matter of time before the machine will be taught an array of ways to help you to get your perfect summer body.
Now it’s time for you to work on your mental health. There is a big upward trend urging individuals to start practising more self-care, so it makes sense AI would take a crack at it. Although the machines might not be able to pass the Turing test – an assessment devised by Alan Turing in the 1950s that “tests a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human” – the cute illustrated face of Reflectly will still do.
Reflectly is a “mindfulness” companion in the form of an “intelligent” journal. It asks you questions about your day, your mood and what contributed to your feelings and gently nudges you into talking (typing) about “how it made you feel” in a way that, oddly, feels way less intrusive than most flesh-and-blood therapists.
It also asks you a daily question, such as, “If no one could judge you, what would you do differently today.” After you answer (or choose not to), it provides you with an audio recording relevant to the question.
Although the audio comes in the form of Maxie, a somewhat tinny sounding American woman, telling you not to be afraid of what others think, it is done in such a way that it comes across as caring, rather than preachy or judgmental.
Maybe Dr Turing was wrong, maybe we don’t need a machine that is the equivalent of us. Perhaps all we need to feel better is something to stop, pay attention, look at us, and listen.