Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

The Alexa Prize: $2.5M to Advance Conversational AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming ubiquitous. With advances in technology, algorithms, and sheer compute power, it is now becoming practical to utilize AI techniques in many everyday applications including transportation, healthcare, gaming, productivity, and media. Yet one seemingly intuitive task for humans still eludes computers: natural conversation. Simple and natural for humans, voice communication in everyday language continues to be one of the ultimate challenges for AI.

Today, we are pleased to announce the Alexa Prize, a $2.5 million university competition to advance conversational AI through voice. Teams of university students around the world are invited to participate in the Alexa Prize (see contest rules for details). The challenge is to create a socialbot, an Alexa skill that converses coherently and engagingly with humans on popular topics for 20 minutes. We challenge teams to invent an Alexa socialbot smart enough to engage in a fun, high quality conversation on popular topics for 20 minutes.

Are you up to the challenge?

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developer.amazon.com/public/community/post/Tx221UQAWNUXON3/Are-you-up-to-the-Challenge-Announcing-the-Alexa-Prize-2-5-Million-to-Advance-Co

From Dr Google, to Dr Facebook, and beyond…

I recently appeared on the ABC Health Report radio program.

Joel Werner: Do you ever go online to search for symptoms that you’re experiencing? I do it all the time, and it’s a trend that has picked up the nickname ‘Dr Google’. For Ashwin Ram, Dr Google is just one step on the path to future healthcare…

The Intelligent Web: Shaping Behavior at the Intersection of Health, Wealth, & Choice

The web is evolving from information (portals) to interaction (social/mobile). The next stage will be about influence: shaping attitudes and behaviors. To do this effectively requires a new kind of technology: user modeling. It also requires an innovation methodology that is fundamentally about people, not technology.

I discuss three big ideas in innovation for consumer engagement and behavior change, and illustrate using examples from healthcare, education, and financial services.

Invited keynote at Amplify: Business Innovation and Thought Leadership, June 2013, Australia.

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The Patient Portal Conundrum

Recent “Meaningful Use” legislation requires healthcare providers to (Stage 1) capture patient information in electronic health records, (Stage 2) create portals to enable online access for patients and providers, and (Stage 3) demonstrate improved quality of care. All of which sounds like a great idea…but will it work?
 
At PARC we believe in anthropologist Margaret Mead‘s driving principle: “What people say, what people do, and what people say they do are entirely different things.” We know consumers access healthcare information online, but what do they actually do when they’re there?
 
NPR Marketplace cites a report by healthcare research firm National Research indicating 96% of the nearly 23,000 consumers it surveyed recently use Facebook to gather information about health care, with 28% using YouTube and 22% using Twitter. In fact, social media has been called “the biggest threat to healthcare portals like WebMD”.
 
If consumers don’t use healthcare portals, how will we get “meaningful use” by creating them? I will attempt to answer this question (hint: think Augmented Social Cognition) but I fully expect to raise a lot more questions in the process. Come ready to ask and argue, and maybe we will find answers together.
 
Invited talk at Breakaway Healthcare Forum, held in conjunction with TEDMED, April 16, 2013. 
 

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Health != Healthcare: New Technologies for Consumer Health & Wellness

In a recent Wall Street Journal essay, Marc Andreessen wrote: “Software is eating the world. Over the next 10 years, I expect many more industries to be disrupted by software. Healthcare and education are next up for fundamental software-based transformation.”

What is the impending disruption in healthcare, and what is PARC doing in this space? I’ll provide an overview of PARC’s healthcare program, including market need, business opportunity, and research thrusts.

A key insight is that health and healthcare are two different markets. I’ll explain what this means and why this creates breakthrough opportunities for Augmented Social Cognition—in particular, through the confluence of three technologies: social, mobile, and gamification. Under the hood, artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques are used to augment human cognition and interaction, creating a new generation of “intelligent social web” technologies.

These technologies combine the benefits of the “information web” with those of the “social web”, enabling new consumer-centric approaches to health and wellness that increase engagement, improve health literacy and promote behavior change. I’ll give several examples of new technologies in the market and highlight research challenges that still need to be addressed.

I’m looking to engage, not to lecture, so come prepared to discuss, argue, and share ideas!

Keynote talk at WWW-2012 Web Intelligence & Communities workshop, Lyon, France, April 16, 2012.
Invited seminar at XRCE research center, Grenoble, France, April 18, 2012.

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Health : Healthcare :: Learning : Education

With the advent of open education resources, social networking technologies and new pedagogies for online and blended learning, we are in the early stages of a significant disruption in current models of education. ‘Learning’ is beginning to peel away from ‘Education’ as a separate market, with its own set of opportunities and challenges for practitioners, technologists, and entrepreneurs. While ‘education’ is driven by schools, colleges, and governments, ‘learning’ focuses on empowering the individual to take charge of their learning.

Interestingly, a similar phenomenon is occurring in healthcare, fueled by the confluence of similar trends and technologies: open health resources, social networking technologies and new methodologies for consumer engagement. ‘Health’ is starting to emerge as a separate and disruptive market, with its own opportunities and challenges. While ‘healthcare’ is driven by providers, payers, and governments, ‘health’ focuses on empowering the consumer to take charge of their health and wellness. 

In this talk, I discuss recent trends in these two industries, explain why they are analogous, and discuss opportunities for user experience, big data, analytics and social capital research. I provide examples of social, mobile, and game technologies that are creating the disruption, and highlight key research challenges that are yet to be addressed.


Invited talk at UC Berkeley, iSchool “Thought Leaders in Data Science and Analytics”, April 11, 2012. 

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Transforming the Industry: Watson in Education

Watson, named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, was built by a team of IBM scientists with valuable help from research partners from Carnegie Mellon University, University of Texas, University of Southern California, University of Massachusetts, University of Trento (Italy), MIT, RPI, and the University of Albany. The team set out to accomplish a grand challenge—to build a computing system that rivals a human’s ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence. Watson passed its first test on Jeopardy! in February 2011, but the real test will be in applying the underlying systems, data management and analytics technology across different industries, especially in education.

Invited panel presentation at IBM Watson in Education: Transforming the Industry, IBM Almaden Research Center, November 16, 2011