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October 12, 2016

Chatbot Melody assists doctors to collect patient information

Baidu, the Chinese search engine company, announced the launch of Melody, a chatbot powered by artificial intelligence (A.I.). The chatbot is added to the existing Baidu Doctor app for Android and iOS. This app collects medical information from its users and passes it to doctors in a form to make it easier to use for diagnostic purposes or to otherwise respond to.

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Melody only understands Chinese

The Baidu Doctor app lets users ask medical questions and make appointments to meet with their doctors. Melody takes it one step further; it reduces the amount of time patients and doctors have to spend exchanging basic information. The chatbot only sends responses on behalf of doctors after having those doctors verify the information. At this moment, the chatbot is only available to doctors and patients in China and only understands Chinese.

“It’s not our role to diagnose, it’s the doctors’ role to diagnose. We try to assist the doctors,” said Baidu chief scientist Andrew Ng. Melody uses a type of A.I. called deep learning. This involves training artificial neural networks on lots of labeled data and then making inferences about new data. Ng is one of the most widely recognized figures in the field. Baidu uses deep learning for many purposes, including speech recognition, object detection, and prediction of advertising click-through rates (CTRs).
His father used A.I.

Ng also has a personal connection to health care. In the early 1990s, when Ng was a young boy, he watched his father, a doctor, using A.I. to generate automated medical diagnoses. “I got into A.I. partially because of him,” Ng said. He hopes Melody will be able to help both doctors and patients.

Baidu uses genuine online text conversations between doctors and patients, to teach Melody how to deal with patients’ chat messages. “There’s a ton of data,” Ng said. Baidu had great access to Chinese-language data, not necessarily data in every language, or even in the handful of other languages that the Baidu search engine is available in. “I don’t think we have an announcement to make right now about English-language products, but I guess there are other possibilities,” Ng said.

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