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In a few weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed our way of life. With so many businesses closing their doors or having to switch to remote work systems, adaptability to a constantly changing situation will be critical to the survival of all organizations, large and small.
However, despite everything that is happening, the pandemic is also driving new innovations, especially in the world of digital technology. Here are a few important ways that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already making a difference to improve public health and safety, as the world adjusts to a new normal.
1. AI predicts the spread of the disease
One of the biggest challenges with this coronavirus (and with the disease caused by COVID-19 ) has been how quickly it has spread. Although social distancing measures and the closure of high-risk facilities are considered the best way to control the spread, many areas have been slow to implement such measures because they do not have an accurate perception of their risk.
However, in Israel, an AI-powered survey system developed by the Weizmann Institute of Science aims to better predict outbreaks so that authorities can take proactive measures to mitigate the spread of the virus. The system uses a questionnaire focused on key problems such as symptoms and isolation practices, and then combines the answers with a location-based algorithm. Thus, AI scanning can identify potential spread points, which can help local authorities take action that can slow down the spread of the virus.
2. AI helps support centers
With COVID-19 constantly dominating all headlines, it's no surprise to anyone that hospitals and healthcare organizations are receiving more questions than ever from patients concerned about getting the infection.
Virtual assistants have already lightened the workloads of professionals in other industries, and now similar tools designed specifically to answer questions related to COVID-19 are being used. These AI tools can be embedded directly into health apps and websites.
An example is Hyro , a free COVID-19 virtual assistant that is being offered to healthcare organizations to manage incoming calls and questions. By answering frequently asked questions about the coronavirus, assessing symptoms, and providing information from verified sources such as the WHO, these AI tools can help reduce the burden on healthcare workers already suffering from under-staffing. pandemic is causing.
3. AI fights the spread of misinformation
An unfortunate problem that has arisen with the COVID-19 pandemic is how quickly erroneous information spreads on the internet. From minimizing the risks posed by the virus to fake text messages warning of mandatory quarantine orders, this can increase panic during what is already a scary time.
Many social platforms use human content moderators to verify harmful posts, but with the need to work from home or stop working entirely, AI is increasingly important to combat misinformation. Although lack of human supervision means an increased risk of mistakes, it could also drive further improvements for these machine learning tools.
As an example of this, Jacob Kastrenakes of The Verge explains : “YouTube will increasingly depend on AI to moderate videos during the coronavirus pandemic, considering that many of its human moderators are at home to limit the spread of the virus. This means that videos can be removed from the site simply because they are marked by AI as potentially violating a policy, while videos can normally be sent to a human moderator to confirm that they should be removed. ”
4. AI identifies sick patients
As The Guardian pointed out, one of the biggest challenges in containing the spread of COVID-19 is the fact that many patients experience symptoms similar to those of a common cold. Some are even completely asymptomatic. Because of this, many people can spread that they could transmit the virus by still going out to public places, instead of staying at home.
Although the testing period is slow, artificial intelligence is already attacking this challenge. The Next Web reported that several AI tools have already been developed to identify patients with COVID-19 and deliver treatment without putting health professionals at risk.
In China, a computer vision algorithm was developed to take people's temperatures in public locations and mark anyone with a fever, however slight. Another AI algorithm helps doctors discern more precisely between patients with coronavirus and patients with typical pneumonia. Robots have even been used in Washington state to offer remote treatment and communication to prevent the virus from passing from patients to doctors.
The future around the COVID-19 pandemic is fraught with uncertainty. There is no way of knowing how long social isolation will last and what other precautionary measures must continue to be applied to mitigate the spread of the disease, we do not even know the general impact of these actions.
And while artificial intelligence may not have all the answers, it is clear that continuing innovation in this field will help, and is already helping, to make the world a safer place during these times of crisis. By helping to slow the spread of the virus and improve conditions for healthcare workers, these technological developments could save lives now and in the future.