AI-health startups account for 7 of 10 IBM Watson AI XPrize finalists

The health startups use AI to tackle a range of problems including malaria, addiction and diabetes.
By Laura Lovett
02:37 pm

AI-healthcare startups have dominated the list of finalists at the IBM Watson AI XPrize competition. While the competition was opened to all fields, seven out of the final 10 startups came from the healthcare sector. 

Even within the healthcare category, the startups focus on a range of specialities and applications. For example, Pittsburgh-based startup Behavior employs wearables and smartphones to predict if someone living with substance abuse disorder is going to relapse. Meanwhile, Israeli startup Zzapp Malaria is using AI to help analyze online databases of malaria cases and satellite data to plan for communities impacted by the infection. 

"The variety of solutions proposed by each team was inspiring. Each team has showcased using AI for solving a very important challenge of their choosing," Amir Banifatemi, General Manager for Innovation and Growth at XPrize, wrote to MobiHealthNews in an email. "One of the goals of the competition is to show human and AI collaboration and we are pleased to see that this was highlighted in their applications. We were particularly impressed by finalists that were able to expand on their problem-solving approach by articulating how AI was instrumental in reaching their goals."

The contest is designed as a multi-year competition with annual rounds taking place in 2017, 2018 and 2019, according to the competition’s webpage. Companies began registering in June of 2016. The competition will distribute a total of $5 million. The winners will finally be announced in 2020, with the grand prize winner will taking home $3 million, the second prize winner receiving $1 million and the third prize recipient $500,000. The competition also has two Milestone Competition prizes that were distributed in 2017 and 2018. 

“In the coming decade, as X Prize strives to achieve its impact mission through incentive competitions and crowd-sourcing, we see tremendous opportunity in this emerging generation of problem solvers to use AI to solve humanity’s grandest challenges," Marcus Shingles, CEO of X Prize, said in a statement, when it first kicked off in 2016. "The IBM Watson AI X Prize is intended to promote and progress the notion of ‘AI for impact’ among the global bold innovator crowd, both the established community of practitioners, as well as encourage newcomers to experiment and ultimately demonstrate how AI can be used as a tool for good.”

This year's judges come from some of the biggest names in the industry including Facebook, Harvard and Nokia. 

Here is a closer look at the AI-healthcare startup finalists:

Deep Drug is a startup is developing an AI software that will learn from past failures and successes in clinical trials. 

Amiko AI is developing a smart inhaler that helps providers with real-time condition monitoring and medication adherence. 

InnoVie Health is a Canadian startup focused on making care management strategies more accurate and efficient.

Machine Genes employs AI to help recommend an insulin dosage for people with Type 1 diabetes that takes each person’s glucose level into account. 

Zzapp Malaria uses AI to zero in on malaria analytics and satellite data to help come up with strategies for combating spread. 

Behavior focuses on addiction and uses smartphone and wearable data to predict if an individual is at risk of a relapse. 

Focus on Artificial Intelligence

In November, we take a deep dive into AI and machine learning.


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