In AI, Computer Vision, Machine Learning

The AI industry responds to COVID-19

By Jeff Toffoli

As 2019 drew to a close, BlueDot, a Canadian artificial intelligence startup that specializes in tracking the spread of infectious diseases around the world, flagged a cluster of “unusual pneumonia” cases around a market in Wuhan, China. Just over a week later, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement declaring the discovery of a “novel coronavirus” in a person with pneumonia in a Wuhan hospital.

COVID-19 has proven to be one of the most contagious diseases the world has seen in decades. This virus has already spread to more than 90 countries, infected more than 185,000 people, and taken more than 3,500 lives. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the world in rapid and unprecedented ways. The dramatic increase in cases, coupled with alarming death rates in countries like Italy have taken the modern global economy into new and uncharted waters. The AI industry has wasted no time in marshaling its resources to help combat the disease and (other social factors). Today we would like to present a survey of AI use cases and trends that have been exposed by the global COVID-19 response so far.

 

Health trends

BlueDot used NLP to look at statements from health organizations, commercial flights, livestock health reports, climate data from satellites, and news reports to derive insights about global health trends.

A team headquartered at Boston Children's Hospital is implementing a similar machine learning system scour through social posts, news reports, data from official public health channels and information supplied by doctors. They hope to identify patterns of disease contagion in locations outside of China.

 

Health research

The White House announced a project in collaboration with tech companies and academics to make a huge amount of COVID-19 research accessible to AI researchers. The goal is to help researchers better analyze and understand a growing set of scholarly articles about COVID-19, and to combat information overload, making it easier for researchers to find relevant studies. 

Microsoft Research, the National Library of Medicine, and the Allen Institute for AI (AI2), gathered and prepared over 29,000 papers related to the new virus and the wider COVID-19 family, 13,000 of them processed so that computers can read the underlying data, plus information about the authors and their affiliations. 

 

Chatbots

COVID-19 is prompting companies to adopt AI call center solutions and customer service centers are experiencing an unprecedented uptick in overall call volume. LivePerson says it has observed “significant” increases in volume on its conversational platform. Overall conversation volume has jumped by about 20% since mid-February, with verticals like airlines and hotels experiencing 96% and 130% climbs, respectively.

WeChat, operated by China’s Tencent provides access to free online health consultation services, and Microsoft along with the CDC have built an AI-powered COVID-19 chatbot designed to help you figure out whether you need to go to the hospital. 

 

Fever detection 

China is using facial recognition technology and temperature detection software from SenseTime to identify people who might have a fever and be more likely to have the virus.

An AI system developed by Chinese tech company Baidu uses an infrared sensor and AI to predict people’s temperatures is now in use in Beijing’s Qinghe Railway Station.

 

Traffic monitoring

AI powered image analysis is being used to study how traffic volume and patterns have been affected by COVID-19 containment efforts in the UK. Vivacity Labs, a startup that makes camera-based traffic sensors discovered a 30% decrease in pedestrian traffic before stay-at-home orders were announced. They were also able to also analyze the distance between pedestrians, revealing 28% fewer interactions between pedestrians over 2 meters apart.

 

Moderation 

Facebook, Google and Twitter have announced that they would be leaning more heavily on their machine learning powered moderation tools due to disruptions in their human powered moderation workforce. 

 

CT diagnosis speed

Multiple companies are using computer vision AI to improve the speed and accuracy of CT scanning technologies. Imaging departments in healthcare facilities are being taxed with the increased workload created by the virus, and the hope is that AI-powered diagnosis systems can provide accurate virus diagnostics seconds. Infervision, Alibaba, Wuhan EndoAngel Medical Technology Company, and China University of Geosciences are just some of the companies involved in CT analytics solutions.

 

Prediction of medications

BenevolentAI is using AI systems to develop drugs to treat COVID-19. They claim to have used their predictive capabilities to propose existing drugs that might be useful within weeks of the outbreak.

DeepMind is taking a different path to drug discovery by using AlphaFold. AlphaFold is studying genome sequences (available for COVID-19 and relatively easy to get) to predict the properties of resulting proteins. These proteins may provide insights into possible therapies.

 

Prediction of survival rates

Initial results using clinical data from Tongji hospital in Wuhan, have used AI to predict survival rates with more than 90% accuracy. The work was done by researchers from the School of Artificial Intelligence and Automation, as well as other departments from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China.

 

Clarifai wants to partner with you to find solutions to the COVID-19 crisis 

Clarifai is supporting organizations who are working to accelerate solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as implementing preventative measures for the future. If you would like to collaborate with us, let us know

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