The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created a chatbot that will talk to you about the symptoms of coronavirus, and whether or not you should seek medical assistance.
Called “Clara,” the chatbot was built on Microsoft’s “Healthcare Bot” and powered by the technology giant’s Azure cloud architecture. Clara will assess symptoms and risk factors for people who are concerned they might get infected, suggest what action they should take, and provide information for how to safely manage at home, Microsoft explained in a blog post.
Why does the CDC need a chatbot? Microsoft says that using artificial intelligence in this way helps to “[free] up doctors, nurses, administrators and other healthcare professionals” so they can provide more critical care. It will also quickly differentiate between individuals with high-risk factors who will need access to medical resources and those who would not, therefore helping to prevent health systems becoming overwhelmed.
Although the chatbot can provide links to more information, as well as how to contact local health departments, it does not have information about testing sites for coronavirus, nor can it actually diagnose you.
In a statement to Techcrunch, Microsoft said that the chatbot was answering over a million messages per day from people concerned about COVID-19, and it expects the number to grow. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, the company said the service is already live in nine health systems around the world, with around 20 coming online soon.
This is not the only action Microsoft is taking to fight the coronavirus. The company launched a coronavirus tracker using its Bing search engine, and is working with other technology giants such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube in order to fight coronavirus misinformation on their platforms.