When Amazon first introduced Alexa in 2014, the public went wild for the device’s promise to bring the convenience of artificial intelligence into everyday life. The voice-activated virtual assistant currently supports more than 10,000 commands and can answer phone calls, order pizza and provide daily history lessons. Now, the tech giant appears to be eyeing Alexa for help with diabetes treatment, The Motley Fool reports.
This week, Amazon announced that it had partnered with pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. to launch the Alexa Diabetes Challenge—a biotech competition that calls for developers across the United States to create high-tech solutions for improving the lives of people managing type 2 diabetes. Each entry must use the virtual assistant for its intervention.
“Users will soon go far beyond turning on lights or calling an Uber and will venture deeper into health care, helping people better manage treatments and communicate with caregivers,” noted Luminary Labs, a strategy and innovation consultancy firm working with Merck and Amazon to manage the high-tech contest. “From reminding people of their nutrition plans to scheduling their insulin dosages, the Merck-sponsored Alexa Challenge will call on developers to push the boundaries of voice technology for people with diabetes.”
The Alexa Diabetes Challenge is sponsored by Merck and supported by Amazon Web Services. Luminary Labs is powering the Challenge. The $25,000 prize for each finalist and $125,000 for the grand prize winner is funded by Merck.
This contest is the latest idea being tested to generate diabetes management solutions by a string of technology companies. For instance, IBM is currently working with biotech firm Medtronic to use Watson, the supercomputer that won Jeopardy!, to develop personalized-care apps for people living with diabetes. Watson was instrumental in the development of Sugar.IQ, a personal assistant capable of predicting diabetic events hours before they happen. In addition, Watson is absorbing more than 66 years of information from the American Diabetes Association to help build other apps.
Apple is working secretly with a small team of biomedical engineers to develop noninvasive sensors that aim to continuously monitor a person’s blood sugar, which could be a feature in an upcoming version of the Apple Watch. According to industry insiders, the project is advanced enough to warrant feasibility trials, but Apple has not yet publicly acknowledged its efforts.
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