The threat of using AI is a hot topic, but we rarely think about the consequences of not using AI at all. It may be an even worse outcome for society as discussed in a recent CNBC article. Driven by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)set forth by the United Nations, we decided to delve into AI’s role in achieving these global goals and fostering social good. This article focuses on two crucial SDGs: Good Health & Well-being and Reducing Inequality.
Good Health and Well-being
AI’s potential in healthcare is vast, ranging from treatment development to preventive screening, making healthcare the industry that benefits the most from AI:
AI in Protein Research
In recent years, at least two groundbreaking AI systems have been introduced to the world, each making invaluable contributions to the study of proteins — essential elements responsible for many functions in a body.
This fall Microsoft unveiled EvoDiff, an AI framework designed to generate protein sequences. Unlike traditional methods requiring structural information about proteins, EvoDiff simplifies the process by focusing solely on protein sequences. This is achieved through a diffusion model, similar to those used in image generation, gradually refining a noisy initial protein sequence toward a desired one. EvoDiff can generate proteins that were previously hard to obtain, helping researchers to design more effective drugs than ever before.
In 2021, Google’s DeepMind introduced AlphaFold, an AI system capable of predicting the intricate 3D structures of proteins. Proteins possess an almost limitless range of possible shapes, and the key to developing effective drugs and treatments lies in identifying a protein whose 3D structure can securely attach to the surface of misfolded proteins.
Both these AI models make substantial contributions to the healthcare field, particularly in the realms of understanding and developing treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and certain types of cancer.
AI in Cancer Screening
Ezra is a pioneering company in cancer screening and the only company in the world that leverages AI across the entire screening process. Utilizing AI, Ezra enhances the scanning process, radiology interpretation, and report generation.
Over the past 5 years, the company has built the most comprehensive dataset of full-body MRI scans ever done in an asymptomatic, screening population. And now they are about to facilitate early detection of cancer globally. Their cutting-edge advancements in AI and MRI technology not only accelerate the screening process but also make it more accessible and affordable. Currently, they offer a 30-minute scan for $1,350, and they are actively working towards a 15-minute scan priced at $500, with an expected release in the next 2-3 years.
Tackling Malaria with AI
Startup Zzapp Malaria has teamed up with IBM Watson’s AI and Data Science Elite Team to tackle the persistent challenge of malaria. Based on weather data, they’ve developed a weather analysis module that predicts the emergence of water bodies that appear after rainstorms. It is a crucial step in planning malaria elimination efforts and mosquito monitoring activities.
Employing AI, the system analyzes satellite images and topographical maps to pinpoint malaria transmission hotspots, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of elimination strategies tailored to each area. This initiative by Zzapp Malaria showcases the power of AI in not only revitalizing the fight against malaria but also in potentially tackling other vector-borne diseases.
AI-Powered Digital Sense of Smell
Partnering with Google Cloud, Osmo is harnessing AI to build the world’s first map of odor and digitize the sense of smell. By analyzing molecular structures, their AI system can describe how compounds smell and its descriptions are often similar to those of trained human sniffers.
This venture into digitizing smell can lead to creating more sustainable aroma molecules, early disease detection, tracking pandemics faster, repelling insects to combat diseases like malaria and dengue, and much more that will transform human health and build a better future.
AI in Heart Health Monitoring
Apple once made headlines with its Apple Watch’s capability to identify common heart issues through machine learning, demonstrating its life-saving potential.
The latest version of Apple Watch, empowered by AI, is reshaping the realm of personal health monitoring. Its built-in sensors gather detailed data on body functions and movements which machine learning algorithms then can analyze for anomalies. The AI algorithms may take this raw data and transform it into actionable insights, providing users with prompt alerts on potential health risks.
Another powerful application of AI for screening is the Eko Stethoscope. This stethoscope is equipped with AI that has been trained on thousands of heart sounds, both normal and abnormal. It assists doctors in swiftly identifying early signs of heart problems.
In essence, both items provide a proactive health monitoring system, highlighting the transformative power of AI in healthcare.
AI in Mental Health Care
At the WWDC, Apple introduced new features that highlight AI’s potential in reshaping mental healthcare. In the updated iOS 17 Health App, users are encouraged to log their mood states. By collecting a vast dataset of biometric data, mood states, anxiety and depression scores, Apple aims to employ AI for predicting mental health conditions, suggesting treatments, and even connecting individuals with clinicians.
But Apple doesn’t stop there. The upcoming Vision Pro, as mentioned by neurotechnology researcher Sterling Crispin, promises to significantly enhance Apple’s ability to predict mental states. The Vision Pro will gather biometric data through various means, such as eye tracking, electrical activity in the brain, heartbeats and rhythms, muscle activity, blood density in the brain, blood pressure, and skin conductance. These advanced features will enable AI models to predict cognitive states, potentially revolutionizing mental health science.
AI in Wellness
YogiFi stands out as the world’s first smart yoga mat. This AI-powered mat improves yoga sessions by delivering real-time feedback and personalized guidance. With features to track flexibility and balance metrics, YogiFi also provides valuable insights into yoga practices. The mat comes along with a mobile app and seamlessly integrates with Apple Watch, enabling users to gather vital data during practices and track progress over time.
AI is becoming a cornerstone in reducing inequality and enhancing accessibility. It not only unlocks new dimensions but also opens up a world of opportunities and independence for many. Here’s how AI is making the world more equal and inclusive:
Text-to-Speech and Speech-to-Text
The emergence of AI technology has ushered in a wide range of text-to-speech and speech-to-text applications, significantly improving the daily interactions of individuals with hearing or speech disabilities. By translating spoken words into text and vice versa, these technologies foster communication, making day-to-day interactions much more accessible.
World to Speech
For individuals with visual and cognitive impairments, navigating the world can be challenging. However, the world’s tech giants Microsoft and Google are leading the way toward a more inclusive society with the help of AI.
Seeing AI by Microsoft for iOS and Lookout by Google for Android are groundbreaking apps that provide audio descriptions of the surroundings. They recognize and narrate text, making printed materials and signs accessible through audio descriptions. These apps can also scan barcodes, identify currency, and offer audio guidance, empowering users to navigate the world with ease.
AI-powered assistants like Siri, Cortana, and Google Assistant can perform various tasks and provide invaluable support to individuals with disabilities. They can handle everything from scheduling appointments to sending emails.
For individuals with visual impairments, these AI assistants can read text messages, emails, and other written content, as well as facilitate navigation on mobile devices and the internet. They enhance communication for the deaf or hard of hearing by transcribing audio during phone calls and converting typed text to speech for outgoing messages. For those with difficulty speaking or communicating, voice commands can be used to perform tasks, making them especially helpful for those with conditions like ALS, stroke, or cerebral palsy.
The digital realm often neglects linguistic diversity, leaving speakers of rare languages at a disadvantage. Here, for instance, Microsoft is taking steps to preserve ‘rare’ Indian languages using AI, ensuring digital accessibility for their speakers. With Project ELLORA, Microsoft is creating datasets to develop AI technologies that will bring these languages online, primarily to preserve them for future generations and empower users of these languages to engage fully in the digital world.
In the same domain, Karya NGO, the world’s first data cooperative, provides digital opportunities for economically disadvantaged Indians, offering them a pathway out of poverty. Using AI, Karya facilitates both language preservation and inclusion by processing data in various rare Indian languages. Among their initiatives, Karya collaborates with an Indian healthcare NGO, collecting voice recordings in 10 Kannada dialects to train an AI model to address local healthcare queries. Moreover, Karya offers all datasets for sale to AI companies as training data for their models, opening up a revenue stream for Indian workers. The work conducted by Karya also holds the potential to grant millions of people, whose languages are marginalized online, with access to reliable information in their native tongue, particularly on such critical topics as healthcare.
The exploration of AI’s capabilities has already yielded significant benefits for societal good, and hesitating to harness its full potential could be a misstep. Through various applications across industries, AI is not just a technological advancement but a tool for addressing global challenges.
As we have navigated through AI’s influential role in addressing global challenges, particularly in the realms of health and equality, we decided to map out this evolving landscape. We encourage you to keep the suggestions coming! Are there other companies or initiatives that we should include? Share your thought and mention us on social networks.