Hello...Doctor?

One of the exciting ideas being tossed around recently over at the Xprize Foundation is the creation of an Artificial Intelligence physician that you could access from your smartphone.  Have a strange rash on your arm and chest?  Take a photo of the rash with your phone and allow the AI physician to compute whether your rash matches smallpox or poison ivy from it's image database.  Want advice on whether your chest pain is heartburn or a heart attack?  Ask the AI!  The possibilities are enormous.  Especially for the billion plus people around the world who live more than a few hours walk or drive from the nearest doctor, the AI physician would represent a revolution in health care.  Singularity Hub has exclusive footage of an Xprize promotional video that shows the vision for an AI physician.  Check it out below:

The Xprize foundation hopes to propel the world as quickly as possible towards the creation of an AI physician by hosting a multimillion dollar competition for the first team that can create an AI that meets certain criteria.  Sadly, the Xprize has yet to get the competition up and running.

Yet with or without the help of the Xprize, technology is advancing in ways that are making it ever more possible to develop a useful AI physician.  Modern smartphones already have ample broadband speed, processing power, and access to the world's information at their disposal.  Combine this with recent advances in narrow AI, such as voice recognition and image comparison capability, and clearly the pieces are already in place.

Even though a formal AI physician has not yet seen widespread success, smartphones have nevertheless made several strides in this direction.  AirStrip Technologies is developing a suite of hardware/software solutions that allow physicians and nurses to monitor important vital signs from their smartphone.  Several hardware attachments, such as a microscope, have been created to transform your smartphone into a medical device.

Considering all of the individual applications and hardware attachments that are out there,one might even argue that the AI physician is already here.  But this I think misses the point.  Hardware is a different matter, but at least on the software side what we really need is a single application for our smartphones that brings all the pieces together in one place.  When sickness calls, we cannot be expected to search through all of the different resources that are out there to solve the problem.  Instead what we need is a single AI application that we can tell our problem to, and then allow this application to take care of the rest.  I hope the Xprize can get its AI physician competition up and running soon.  Entrepreneurs, if you are listening, please get on it already - the improved healthcare of billions is at stake.

[image credit: http://iphonedoktor.dk/]