Are AI-Driven Chatbots Driving the COVID-19 Battle?
Artificial Intelligence is making significant headway in solving human problems all across. This also includes the biggest challenge faced by humanity these days, the Covid-19 pandemic. Artificial Intelligence can help you to understand and combat this novel situation in many ways, including AI-driven chatbots. In this article, we try and enumerate these applications and their viability.
The whole world is fighting the Coronavirus pandemic in their own ways and forms. WHO has already reported more than two hundred thousand deaths across more than 200 nations. Initiated from Wuhan, China. Governments from all countries have been running back and forth to analyze and develop ways to save their nations from the pandemic and its aftermath. As technological support, Artificial Intelligence, coupled with its chatbots, has been sought as one of the most effective tools to this extent.
Understanding AI-Driven Chatbots
AI-driven chatbots are software developments backed by Artificial Intelligence algorithms, deployed over and above websites and applications that seem to provide instant answers to issues keyed into or told them. They utilize conversational technology in confluence with artificial intelligence to deliver smart results. Technology-based products like Alexa and Google Home have already utilized similar technologies in synchronization with Natural Language Processing (NLP) Technologies for conversational outcomes. AI-driven chatbots allow providing the viewer with the optimum or the most sought response processed per their respective AI algorithm. Thus, they may seem simple enough; but chatbots inculcate a whole package of data, processing, and technology within.
Chatbots are Helping Stir The Corona Pot
The biggest issue with Coronavirus is that it is a novel virus. Thus, our scientists, researchers, medical professionals, and Governments are not aware of its spread, intricacies, and cure. AI-driven chatbots are helping them gain time and supporting them in helping out the general public in the best way possible:
The World Was Caught Unaware
The COVID-19 situation began in December 2019. Thus, the ‘19’ included in its name. The world ended up unaware of its effects and spreading prowess. Thus, first, the Chinese Government and then the Governments worldwide have been looking for ways to somehow control its effects since then. The Virus has, in effect, mutated into several forms having different effects on different patients. As per a WHO report, approximately 80% of cases are asymptomatic, 15% are suffering from a severe infection of SARS-COVID (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). The patients suffering from acute infection are just 5%. These are critical infection cases that require ventilators. But, on the onset, there was a huge patient influx in hospitals. The doctors, nurse staff, and other medical staff ended up unaware.
Other patients needed to visit doctors and OPD’s due to their ongoing disease or patients already admitted to hospitals. These patients were at high risk of carrying the virus and getting infected. Moreover, these patients inclined to carry severe symptoms. Then, hospital organizations hired chatbots to handle the communications with these harried patients on all ends and take some work pressure off the doctors and other medical staff. These bots provided even solutions for some mild issues. Moreover, they can guide patients towards the optimum organization vertical or dedicate space within the hospital itself. It was a huge help for the medical staff in taking care of menial jobs. The chatbots ensured that there is a way to resolve the communication issues of patients calmly and effectively.
Clear Communication About When to ‘Test’
The general public has been in a state of genuine confusion regarding protecting themselves and their families. Until the authorities approve an appropriate vaccine or cure, the state of affairs is liable to remain the same. Testing and social distancing are probably the only ways to help get the true picture and control situations. In its wake, the Government has set up various testing centers all across the country.
Artificial Intelligence backed these testing organizations are using AI-driven chatbots due to a lack of workforce. Besides, it helps to keep the maximum number of patients socially distanced from testing centers where COVID-19 infected patients are due to visit all the time. To step up testing prowess, the chatbots are able to ask questions about patient symptoms, their travel history, pre-existing issues, etc. The bots then advise the patients to go for testing or not, according to pre-set algorithms.
Supporting ‘Essential Services’ During COVID-19
Coronavirus pandemic had led to worldwide lockdown back and forth. Physical stores and companies had to close down as per their respective Government orders. Only the bare minimum and essential services could function, and that too in a very phased manner. But, patient or not, every individual has certain basic requirements required to be taken care of. Patients had to visit hospitals to get treatment, but they required fund backups from their health insurance partners. People were willing to buy special COVID-treatment insurances due to the high treatment costs quoted by hospitals.
The insurance companies closed. AI-driven chatbots came in handy in resolving these issues for several of these companies. There was a connection between chatbots and WhatsApp messengers for resolving customer issues instantly. In fact, the concept of ‘chatbots’ for online functional business, specifically for customer care functionalities, has seen unprecedented growth in the past few corona months. The chatbots are handling even the customer care functionalities of banks.
Handling ‘Misinformation’ Issues
The coronavirus is a novel virus, and so is the scenario we face. Many people had a lot to say about the virus, its scope, and its prowess. Numbers started to create panic amongst people. There was a lot of confusion about Government steps, precautions, and regulations mandated during this time. It led the Government of India to create another chatbot to provide clear and updated information to the general public. It is the MyGov Corona Helpdesk, which basically is an Artificial Intelligence backed chatbot with a dedicated WhatsApp number of 9013151515. The service was announced by Honorable Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, on March 25, 2020.
The service’s task is to effectively eliminate all fake news and rumors surrounding these challenging times. The user needs to save its number in their contact list and message ‘namaste’ or ‘Get Started’ using WhatsApp to this number to access its services. The MyGov chatbot, as of now, is functional in English and Hindi languages. World Health Organisation (WHO) has even launched something on similar lines. To eliminate fake news, they have brought in their very own chatbot. The WHO Viber Service arose in confluence with Rakuten Viber. It currently provides information in English, Russian and Arabic.
AI-Driven Chatbots – Helping Business Revival
One of the biggest after-effects of the COVID-19 has been people worldwide’s economic meltdown. Close markets, shops, and stores, all-time low sales, unemployed millions delved into their life savings to survive these gloomy times. There has been an incremental number of businesses that have been going digital in these times. Since most of the customers are also at home and have been avoiding going to physical markets, the online space of essentials has been witnessing a surge. To leverage this space better and provide their users with optimum user experience (in the absence of proper customer care providing call center services), companies have been eyeing the chatbot technology. Most of them are on the lookout to hire chatbot developers that could soon deliver these software tools to revive their dwindling sales.
In fact, these chatbots are sure to stay and evolve with these organizations in the post-COVID era. As business support during Covid measure, Google has launched its own Coronavirus information dashboard for its cloud customers. It is called the Rapid Response Virtual Agent Program, which can be embedded into any technology-based assets by interested customers.
The COVID-19 situation has opened a can of worms for the entire world. Apart from directly suffering patients, there are many social and economic issues faced by people worldwide. Because of the economic meltdown, high unemployment rates, the shutdown of businesses, and the limitations on movement during the lockdown, many people have been suffering from mental issues like high depression and anxiety levels. These people seldom come out in the open with their conditions due to the societal stigma attached to mental issues and are sometimes unaware of their mental situation.
Lockdowns have brought forth lonely times for many who have been stuck alone at their places of work, with no place to go. To help these people in despair, organizations have launched AI-driven chatbots. With their ease of listening and understand human language and their prowess to provide the viewer with the best available solutions, chatbots became an ominous choice in this regard. Stanford has launched its chatbot, ‘Woebot,’ as an effective means to this end. The privacy, ease of access, and affordability features of this tool make it an even more effective solution.
AI-Driven Chatbots – Suicide Helpline Bots
An article in Economic Times suggested that India has witnessed 300 reported suicidal deaths between March 19 to May 2, during the lockdown. The major reasons individuals have taken this extreme step is loneliness, fear of infection, lack of movement, economic issues, and alcohol withdrawals. As a solution, organizations have come up with chatbots that shall help converse with these individuals at length at any time to dissuade them from taking this extreme step and informing authorities about the same. Lifeline, a non-profit association devoted to emergency support and suicide counteractive action, has launched Australia’s first suicide anticipation chatbot for the family and companions of those in an emergency. The name of the chatbot, created in association with Twitter, is #BeALifeline Direct Message (DM) Chatbot.
Reasons AI-Driven Chatbots Are Necessary to Implement
The above-stated chatbot applications prove beyond a point that AI-driven chatbots implemented in all online spaces to provide solutions to viewers during these challenging COVID times. Let us now analyze the reasons which have triggered this massive inclination towards this technology package:
- They are scalable: In coronavirus times, chatbots have proven their scalability capabilities by providing instant solutions to millions simultaneously across nations.
- Like the ‘The Human Touch’: The AI-driven chatbots can choose the most appropriate solution for each issue separately. Usage of Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology further helps them effectively sort through dialect jargon and understand and resolve the real issues.
- Privacy: They may answer like humans, but chatbots are software at the end of the day. Thus, individuals can easily share their inner thoughts with these machines without fretting about any consequences. This leads to their being an avid utility in mental issues and suicidal helpline technology choices.
- Affordability: It is a fact that buying and maintenance of this technology package involve some costs. But, this cost generally is meager in comparison to the cost of real humans undertaking similar tasks at similar scales.
- 24X7 operability: Chatbots services are available at all times and in all places. This makes them the perfect choice for emergency services that can occur at any time.
- Enabling Social Distancing: Since chatbots are decreasing human contact requirements to talk to and guide patients, customers, etc., towards the appropriate vertical; maintaining social distancing has become easier. This is a necessity to keep COVID-19 in check.
Coronavirus or no-coronavirus, the chatbot technology is here to stay. With the effectiveness and ease with which they seem to handle all communication, requirements have made them an able technology solution for the coming times. It is a fact that they may have their own set of limitations, including the scope of their output options. But, there is a way to resolve this issue with evolving and more complex artificial intelligence algorithms. AI-driven chatbots can resolve customer service issues and response time. However, they will always require appropriate platforms and scope for appropriate usage.