France launches AI voice assistant to help coronavirus patients


FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective mask walks past a sign indicating “Courage” in Paris, while a lock is imposed to slow the rate of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in France, April 25 2020. REUTERS / Gonzalo Fuentes / File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) – French researchers launched a voice assistant on Monday that can help callers with potential coronavirus symptoms and direct them to emergency departments or their doctors using artificial intelligence.

Everyone in France can now call the “AlloCovid” service developed by the French research institute INRIA, the University of Paris and the French railway company SNCF, the group said.

On the line, a female voice greets the callers with “Hello, I am your AlloCovid virtual assistant … Are you ready to start the questionnaire? “

Callers are asked for their postal code but not their name. Depending on their symptoms and pre-existing conditions, they are referred to the right professionals.

The developers hope that the voice assistant, which is more easily accessible to the elderly who prefer the phone than mobile applications or filling in forms, will help the authorities to detect new clusters of infection after the release of France from 11 may.

The system can handle 1000 calls at a time. The appellants’ information is sent anonymously to the health authorities and kept for seven days before being destroyed.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that artificial intelligence has been used in the service of public health,” said Professor Xavier Jouven, who directs the project, in the newspaper Le Monde.

The “AlloCovid” number is separate from the government-sponsored StopCovid contact search application.

Report by Michel Rose; Editing by Giles Elgood

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