How Health App AIO Is Using BotXO’s Conversational AI to Improve Mental and Physical Health
AIO Encourages Healthy Habits with Conversational AI
Founded in 2018, AIO is an innovative form of helping people to achieve their own way of well-being and fulfillment by prioritizing body and mind. Through a conversational interface, AIO motivates and encourages users to be mindful and to eat, rest, drink water, move and breathe better.
AIO’s personalized programs are created by a team of therapists, nutritionists and personal coaches, and focus on both physical and mental health, with the aim of helping users to live a better, more balanced life.
AIO founders observed that during body-std therapy, patients are very engaged because they are guided by a therapist. However, whenever they leave the session, they instantly go back to their old (bad) habits such as not sleeping enough and not drinking enough water.
Here came the idea of creating a program with a holistic approach to health, that would coach and motivate people with short daily messages, continuously developing positive heathy habits.
To make it happen, AIO founders quickly understood that they needed to use AI. Digital agency AKQA supported AIO’s founders in finding the right solution that could serve as the core technology behind a platform or an app. The technology needed to be able to generate fast responses and process huge amounts of text.
BotXO, with its unique conversational AI technology and intuitive interface seemed like a perfect solution, providing complex dialogues, with short response time as well as working efficiently with different systems and platforms and interaction points.
Who Created AIO and Why?
AIO’s founders, Regin Jensen and Michel Alexander Louis Kowal, are health experts, who realized that the patients might need a guiding program for the time in-between the sessions so that they don’t switch to old habits.
When Anders Dons, CEO of Deloitte, had a severe concussion, and several doctors had given up on treating him, Regin was called to help. He managed to make Anders stand up again within a couple of months. While working together, they started brewing the idea of a health app.
In fact, a guidance through a device has proved to be a new and effective form of psychological and physical support. For example, Woebot offers different strategies to improve person’s mood.
The idea was to create some sort of in-between sessions support, available for everyone. Patients get treatment from their therapists once a week or once every two weeks. However, they do not have any support between the sessions. “AIO can be used during the times when a person does not get treatment.
Yet, the idea behind AIO is not to replace treatment or being sold along with therapy treatment”, explains Rikke Clausen, COO and Partner. The main vision was to create a guidance and support system for everyone who feels a need to improve their mental and physical health.
Michel Alexander Louis Kowal, the co-founder, adds: “although the authentic experience of seeing a health professional in person cannot be replaced fully, I feel conversational AI is a great way of sharing knowledge to costumers without the need of your presence, so you can focus you time and energy on situations where presence and empathy is essential”.
What Is the Purpose of AIO?
The purpose of AIO is helping people with the health challenges of the modern world. We all get lost sometimes in the world of achievement, get stressed from our daily work challenges, overwhelmed with life’s events. Everyone wants to be a perfect employee, a perfect manager, a perfect partner or parent.
We suffer more and more from work-related stress and common occurrences like not sleeping enough or not exercising can take a toll on our mental and psychical health. All these issues can affect not only us, but also our relationships with others.
People sometimes tend to forget that a healthy body and mind are keys to optimize our performance and leading a happier life. Yet, even those who understand the consequences of poor health habits, do not have enough motivation and persistence to change them.
AIO is an app that helps individuals to be mindful and to eat, rest, drink, move and breathe better. “Building a solid foundation in these areas helps you feel good, perform better and become more resilient to stress”, explains Michell Kowal.
AIO is essentially an awareness app that allows users to reflect and act on what it takes to be themselves at their best. The app becomes a life coach, providing guidance through daily conversations to build awareness and change habits.
“Conversation is a more inclusive way of communicating. The user has a feeling of control and guidance at the same time”, explains Peter Bruun, Technical Director at Digital Agency AKQA, who was involved in building the product as conversational AI.
How Does AIO Work?
AIO works through a conversational interface. “When you engage with the app, it gives you educational cards, knowledge, assigns you challenges and exercises”, explains Rikke Clausen. Each exercise area is presented through simple challenges, supported with guided audio and video sessions. The users need to follow the guidance and see how each habit fits into their lifestyle. AIO provides also immediate support if the user is in pain or feeling stressed.
The health content is easily available for everyone. However, it is difficult to find it to the right context. Some people might prefer this way of acquiring knowledge, but many get a bit lost and they need guidance. AIO is here to give the content to people bit by bit, so they can have enough time to digest and reflect on it.
Daily conversation with AIO helps to build good habits. It is not there just to measure daily walking distance or amount of drank water. It is an app that brings awareness on different habits and their consequences.
Who Can Use AIO?
From Conceptualization to Launch of AIO
Considering the huge amount of content that the app must be able to host, it took only around a year from ideation to execution. In fact, the team of three to six people was working on the content for more than six months. When the project started in 2018, four people were involved.
AKQA provided whole technical, IT support by building the product. They also assisted the team with the name and the brand. “AKQA provided IT support because AIO did not have a CTO or IT person, initially”, says Steffen Otkjær, Managing Director at AKQA.
Building content and having the validation from health practitioners and psychiatrists, was a huge undertaking. “Health is a sensitive area. The knowledge we provide to the users has to be well-documented, researched and executed”, says Rikke Clausen.
Moreover, health application using AI chatbot technology is totally different from common chatbots providing the customers information about, for example, opening hours of a shop. The creators could not afford to get something wrong, when people’s health comes into play.
From Dialogflow to BotXO
Originally, the AIO app was built on Google’s Dialogflow: “Google’s tools are a very easy, almost automatic choice, people think they’re always the best so that’s often the reason why they chose them”, says Peter Bruun from AKQA digital agency.
“But very soon we realized that Dialogflow interface speed was too low. Another obstacle occurred when we realized that editing was too complex, which is a problem for the AIO employees”, explains Steffen Otkjær, Managing Director at AKQA.
After a few weeks spent building the first version of the AIO app on Dialogflow, it was clear that it was no longer a viable option, so the AKQA team decided to switch to BotXO.
“In fact, it was possible to build and test at the same time. What took 10 to 15 minutes in Dialogflow, it would take only 30 seconds in BotXO.” explains Steffen Otkjær. That was a major deal maker.
Moreover, the AIO team did not want an app with limited conversations. They didn’t want an FAQ bot, but something that would flow as a natural conversation. BotXO was able to handle both huge amounts of content and complicated dialogues.
Furthermore, “AKQA was building the core technology for AIO on BotXO for around seven months. But that shouldn’t necessarily be an indicator of how long it takes to build a bot. This was a complex product with a huge amount of content and integrations”, says Peter Bruun.
Overall, the onboarding process was a positive experience for the AIO team. The switch to BotXO happened smoothly. “It was always a challenge to learn something new, but we got the help we needed all along”, explains Regin Jenses. “The AIO team had very good communication with the core development team at BotXO and could collaborate on the product”, concludes Steffen Otkjær.
AIO’s Goals for the Future
The AIO team plans to achieve several goals in the future:
- As AIO’s language is English, the team would like to achieve worldwide reach.
- The discussions have been taking place about the amount of guidance the users receive. Some users need more guidance, while others are more aware of their problems and they rely less on guidance. In other words, the team needs to decide about the level of user autonomy.
- There’s also a need to potentially bypass dialogue altogether, if a user wants to skip it. That is a vital consideration since the role of dialogue is to roll slowly – after all, changing habits needs time. However, needs of users, who want to do just exercise should be considered. “At the moment, AIO cannot skip dialogue. We want to change the interface to facilitate that”, explains Steffen Otkjær.
At the same time, AIO wants to improve the quality of conversations by making dialogues longer and friendlier.
Further, AIO team wants to improve the integration between BotXO and their proprietary rules engine. Improvements of flows with the help of data are also desirable.
Another goal is using NLU (also known as NLP) in the conversation. Right now, there is no option for a user to give his or her own input into AIO.
The NLU will be key to enhancing the product: “We would like to introduce NLU for free texts from users”, says Peter Bruun. AIO would work together with BotXO’s proprietary NLU as well as BotXO’s sentiment analysis. The task will not come with its own challenges “it is a very sensitive part, because the bot is giving people medical advice, and you do not want to mess this up”, says Steffen Otkjær.
Finally, the AIO team is not considering switching to human handover at this point. However, one of the ideas to develop in the future might be including certified therapists. The app could hand over the cases to therapists, physicians, dietitians, who would be able to take up the conversations and carry out sessions in real-time.
AIO helps users to introduce healthy habits into their daily lives. Personalized programs, created by therapists, nutritionists and personal coaches, provide necessary guidance as well as motivations to those who have difficulties to maintain balanced lifestyle. AIO shows that conversational interface becomes an innovative way to improve people’s health.
When asked if he would recommend chatbots for other businesses, Peter Bruun says: “chatbots need to be considered for scenarios where you want some kind of human interaction, more agile and interactive. Chatbots allow for understanding the needs of customers as well as they provide more playful experience for users”.
Michell Kowal adds: “apart from the obvious fact that information can be targeted to the users needs, I love the idea of communicating your message through the light and conversational form of a dialogue. It brings you closer to the user. There are many ways to use this form of communication, and I guess it’s only our imagination and creativity that sets the limits”.
AKQA is is a digital agency that specialises in creating digital services and products. It employs 2,100 staff globally. AKQA has offices in Europe, North America, South America, Central America, Asia.