If there's a silver lining to any of the madness happening around the world right now, it's that people and technology are entwining in ways no-one could have predicted. We've seen Mercedes F1 engineers partner with medics to build thousands of improved ventilators, IBM link arms with the White House to provide COVID-19 researchers with supercomputing power, and the Chinese government use voice-enabled elevators in public spaces to minimize the spread of the virus.
Voice technology, in particular, has become increasingly valuable in everything from diagnosing the virus by the sound of your voice to keeping people entertained at home. Now, chatbots are stepping into the battle to keep thousands of frightened people informed around the clock.
Here are a few chatbots bringing important facts and guidance to the people who need them, whenever they need them.
Orbita COVID-19 Screening Chatbot & Knowledge Base
Screenshot of the first interaction with the Orbita COVID-19 chatbot.
Orbita has always been at the forefront of Voice innovation, so it's no surprise that they were among the first to roll out a chatbot to "help organizations provide a virtual layer of support and screening."
The COVID-19 Screening Chatbot & Knowledge Base has two main purposes:
Screen for symptoms: Right now everyone with a mild cough thinks they have the virus and are quick to overload healthcare phone lines with panicked questions. The chatbot lessens the load by reviewing their symptoms and guiding them through their options.
Educate patients: Misinformation is making rounds online and offline, so this chatbot provides patients with credible, clinically-approved information straight from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Currently, Orbita's chatbot is optimized for the U.S. healthcare market, works on both web and mobile, and is free to install on any healthcare website. You can test it out yourself by going to orbita.ai and clicking on the chat icon on the bottom right corner. Plus, make sure to check out their other COVID-19 solutions. (They've sure been busy lately!)
NHS Whatsapp bot
Screenshot of the first interaction with the NHS Whatsapp chatbot.
Here's one for those on the other side of the pond (but knee-deep in the same chaos). With the NHS' 111 service overloaded with worried callers, the government has rolled out a Whatsapp chatbot to provide official, trustworthy advice over text.
"The GOV.UK Coronavirus Information Service is an automated chatbot service which will allow the British public to get answers to the most common questions about coronavirus direct from government." States the official announcement on the GOV.UK website.
The move is also a way for the UK government to combat the spread of misinformation whirling around the country, which is proving almost as difficult to contain as the virus itself.
"This service will help us ensure the public has a trusted source for the right information about coronavirus," said Medical Director Prof Yvonne Doyle from Public Health England in the announcement, "and providing assurance that they are not misled by any of the false information circulating."
To get chatting, UK residents just need to add 07860 064422 as a contact and then message the word "hi" to trigger the menu options. If you're not in the UK, don't worry, Whatsapp has launched the same service on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO), so add +41 22 501 76 55 as a contact and say "hi".
Corona Helpdesk Chatbot on Facebook
Screenshot of the first interaction with the Corona Helpdesk Chatbot on Messenger.
For the same reasons as the other two, Facebook saw the need to create a chatbot to provide a helpful guide in the midst of confusion and misinformation.
The Corona Helpdesk Chatbot lives on Facebook's Messenger platform and can be accessed through MyGovIndia's page. It works in both English and Hindi, and doles out information via text, video, or even infographics on the dos and don'ts regarding coronavirus.
We played around with the chatbot ourselves and it's what you'd expect from Messenger bot. You can either interact with the given menu options or type in a question. The language is simple enough, but the answers can get overwhelming since the bot will essentially spam you with a stream of news articles and apps. Overall, it gets the job done and is still a worthwhile source of accurate information.
Microsoft's Coronavirus Self-Checker bot
Screenshot of the first interaction with the self-check hatbot on the CDC website.
Back in the USA, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) partnered with Microsoft to develop a coronavirus self-checker to help people who are feeling sick determine whether they should be dialing 911 or staying home.
This chatbot is built on Microsoft's artificial intelligence-powered healthcare bot service, and interviews the user on their location, age, and current symptoms to make a final decision. Using AI, the bot suggests a next course of action, such as contacting a healthcare provider or managing the illness safely at home.
Currently, this chatbot only works for those located in the US, but it's a quick and convenient way to take the pressure off if you're experiencing the common COVID-19 symptoms. To chat with it, head over to the CDC website and click on the "self-check" button on the right side of the screen. It'll open a pop up where you can start the interview.
What other chatbots have you seen?
We have yet to see any voice-enabled chatbots, which would certainly be more accessible for those who have trouble typing. But we definitely haven't covered every chatbot out there helping health workers battle the virus.
That's where you come in. Have you stumbled across any chatbots worth a mention? What did you think of them? Tell us in the comments!
On another note, if chatbots and healthcare hit all of your interest buttons, you won't want to miss VOICE Global this June. It's an entirely virtual conference that will feature how voice technology was leveraged during these trying times. It's free to join, so make sure to register before you forget.