AI’s Communication Upsides

Companies are using AI to expedite our social interactions, improve our capacity to learn, and build meaningful human relationships.

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Artificial intelligence has a bad rap. Facial recognition algorithms — like those used by law enforcement agencies around the country — encourage racism. Digital assistants, such as Siri and Alexa, make children ruder. Predictive algorithms, like those employed by Facebook, narrow our perspectives. Meanwhile, language translators, including Google Translate, are said to hinder meaningful emotional connection.

But for all the talk about the harmful impact of AI, there’s also plenty of evidence that it is having a positive impact on our ability to communicate. Across industries, companies are creating tools that use AI and machine learning in combination with other smart technologies to enhance and expedite our social interactions, improve our capacity to learn, and help us build deeper, more meaningful human relationships.

Consider, for instance, the old-fashioned nurse call button. In most hospitals, bedridden patients press a button when they need assistance that sends a signal to the nurse’s station. The signal contains no context or other information. Some patients may need their pillow adjusted; others may be having chest pains. Regardless, the patients must then wait for the nurse to visit their rooms. DeloitteASSIST, a patient care communication technology that uses AI-fueled natural language processing and speech recognition, changes the waiting game. Patients state their requests to the Amazon Alexa-based device, which uses AI to prioritize and route requests. According to pilot results, more than 90% of patients feel the technology improves staff responsiveness, while 87% of nurses say they are more confident knowing how to meet patient needs.

Medtronic, the global medical device company, offers another example of using AI to help patients — in this case, people with diabetes. Medtronic’s personal diabetes assistant, dubbed Sugar.IQ, allows patients to conveniently monitor and track how their glucose levels respond to food intake, insulin dosages, and daily activities. The application, synced with a smart continuous glucose monitoring system and powered by IBM Watson Health’s AI platform, sounds an alarm when a patient’s blood sugar rises or falls to a potentially dangerous level. This signals to patients that they must take corrective action. According to the company, the technology lengthens a patient’s healthy glucose range by 36 minutes per day, or nine days per year. Those nine days mean fewer health complications and lower health care costs.

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