Australian startup Svelte Ventures has created an app called Frank that uses AI to scan smartphones to monitor mental health.
The new ‘mood technology’ is currently undergoing trials in Adelaide, South Australia and is set to launch in mid-2021.
The AI technology behind Frank measures the user’s cognitive health by language recognition, similar to how a Fitbit measures physical health.
Svelte Ventures Co-Founder Dave Chetcuti said it does this by supplying a keyboard for your smartphone much like Grammarly or GBoard does for word processing.
“When people are typing, whether that be messages or emails, on whatever application they are using on their phone, the language input is analysed and then compared against our models,” Chetcuti said.
“What differentiates Frank is that people continue to utilise their phone as they normally would and receive continuous monitoring of their mental health,” Chetcuti said.
“Frank’s keyboard will become invisible and users will forget it is even there.”
Danny Connery, another Co-Founder of Frank, said the software has both consumer and commercial markets.
He said the software can provide businesses with the opportunity to collect anonymous data from employees in order to make informed decisions.
“A lot of people are afraid to come forward with their struggles with mental health, especially in emergency services, and Frank is able to provide businesses with an aggregate of what their population is going through,” Connery said.
A 2014 PwC Australia report into mental health in the workplace, indicated that despite 91 per cent of Australians believing mental health in the workplace is important, only 52 per cent of employees believe their workplace is mentally healthy.
The report found that untreated mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces approximately $10.9 billion per year, comprising of $4.7 billion in absenteeism, $6.1 billion in presenteeism and $146 million in compensation claims.
One in five Australians have taken time off work in the past year because of issues of mental health, according to the report, and this number is twice as high among those who consider their workplace mentally unhealthy.
Based in South Australia’s Lot Fourteen innovation neighbourhood, Svelte Ventures was created under the maxim of what you can measure, you can manage and to use technology to help rather than damage mental health.
Frank is able to link with other smartphone applications, such as the Health app and Screen time, and draw conclusions on the user’s mental wellbeing.
“Because Frank monitors language on the whole phone, it can extract topics that are meaningful to the user,” Chetcuti said.
“If they are talking a lot about their sports team or their work, we can pull that out and measure their emotional content against that topic.”
If Frank detects issues, artificial intelligence is able to suggest user-specific self-care practices via a notification.
“Frank can deliver unique insights to the user that would not be possible any other way.”