Orange-backed health startup combines avatars, home monitoring, speech recognition

By Neil Versel
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Sensely tablet appA start-up from Orange Silicon Valley, the San Francisco development center of France Telecom-Orange, is preparing to launch a platform that combines wireless home monitoring, augmented reality, speech controls and motion capture to help patients manage chronic diseases and prevent hospital readmissions.

The platform, called Sense.ly, uses gesture capture based on Microsoft's Kinect as well as a Nuance Communications speech recognition engine to automate patient engagement and promote continuity of care. It also is meant to lessen the hassle of following up with physicians, a key factor in patients neglecting their health conditions.

"The problem isn't that we don't know what to do as patients," Sense.ly Founder and CMO Dr. Ivana Schnur tells MobiHealthNews. The problem is keeping up a routine every day, Schnur explains.

Sense.ly collects data from wireless home medical devices to collect data and lets patients interact with virtual clinicians in the form of avatars by standing in front of a computer or Internet-enabled TV hooked up to a Kinect sensor to detect patient movement and gestures. Users communicate with the avatar through speech recognition and natural language processing and the system follows established medical protocols and physician instructions to dispense care advice.

"You do not need the doctor for everything. You do not even need the nurse for everything," Schnur says. "The avatar can say what it means when you don't exercise or eat well," she explains. For someone with diabetes, this means the risk of a dangerous spike in blood sugar, for example.

She says she hopes the technology fosters understanding for people newly diagnosed with chronic diseases about how they may need to change their lifestyles and habits.

According to Schnur, company tests have shown people can create emotional attachments with the avatars and may even be more open to sharing personal information with a virtual clinician. "You don't feel as judged as you would with a person," Schnur says.

Schnur expects the product to launch next month. Sense.ly will be targeting healthcare providers burdened with managing chronic diseases and looking to prevent readmissions.