Published: 12th July 2020
Inspired by Dr Abdul Kalam, How Georgia Tech's Ananya Jain set up an AI-powered game to beat mental health issues
Ananya Jain, who is 21-years-old, and her team have put together an app that can make the waiting time between students and their counsellors more productive for the mental health of the former
Back in Chandigarh, her hometown, Ananya 'Jane' Jain met former president late Dr Abdul Kalam when she was 12. She had come up with a chemical formula for biofertiliser and won an award for it from the Missile Man himself. Naturally, the two Science lovers got talking and that's when the scientist encouraged Ananya to pursue Engineering. Fast forward nine years and today the 21-year-old is a student researcher in the Materials Engineering department at the Georgia Institute of Technology, USA. "I am just following the late president's orders," says the youngster with a smile.
Meeting Dr Kalam | (Pic: FullCircle)
And looks like following his orders has truly held her in good stead because this year, Ananya was honoured with The Diana Award which was instituted in fond memory of Diana, Princess of Wales and is supported by Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William and Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex. This honour has been bestowed upon her for founding FullCircle, a mental health game that combines the power of AI and ML to be there for you when you need it the most.
The team | (Pic: FullCircle)
Once there was a jellyfish...
When at the age of 18, Ananya arrived in the US, she knew that her purpose had to run deeper than just pursuing her higher education. "After all, I was staying away from my family and I had to make it worth it," says the youngster. And the first way in which she proved her mettle in the US was by coming up with a jellyfish-inspired turbine, that mimics the movements of the sea animal to be more efficient. It won her and her team the International Biomimicry Design Challenge in 2018. But soon she realised that, "There is no use of making more and more Engineering devices if we can't help people with their basic mental health."
Screenshots from the game | (Pic: FullCircle)
But how did Ananya arrive at the conclusion that she needs to focus on innovations in the mental health space? She answers, "At my own university and at Harvard University, where I was researching, I saw the mental health issues students went through. Counsellors were on call, but sometimes, to get an appointment with them was a task. It was unacceptable," says Ananya vehemently. And since she was also the Resident Advisor for Freshman for a year, she was brought up close and personal with issues like suicidal calls at 3 am. Entre, FullCircle. This game helps students with the in-between time, namely, the time between seeing a counsellor, whether it's in the waiting room and it's just for one or two hours or otherwise, when one has to wait for days. "It gives one resources to take charge of their own mental health," explains the student researcher who started working on this project last July, but when the pandemic descended and with it, brought a lot of despair and anxiety, she knew that she had to accelerate the project. Thus, FullCircle was launched on July 1.
Speed Ranting | (Pic: FullCircle)
Rant for a reason
But what is FullCircle all about? The first and the most important aspect of it is the Mental Health Video Game. One has to answer a set of subtle questions, like 'In the past few weeks, I woke up feeling fresh...' and drag the cursor on the scale to mark how fresh you felt. "It is a digitisation of the whole psychiatric process," explains the youngster who also won the Highest Institute Award in Entrepreneurship by Georgia Tech and the Genius Award. Next comes our favourite feature, Speed Ranting. Rant away while you record your monologue without being judged and the app, using ML algorithms and AI, sends a little pop up to your screen with quick tips. For example, if you say, 'I hate my Physics teacher because he burdens me with work', the app might just say, 'Hey, we know you hate him, but maybe you should talk it out and find out why he does so'. Cool, right? Then there is the Community Forum where students can share what they feel in writing and have open and positive conversations about mental health. "We are also cognisant of the fact that data can be misused so we are big on privacy," she informs.
Community feature | (Pic: FullCircle)
Since their team of FullCircle is based out of all over the world, the US, Switzerland, India and so on, the otherwise introverted researcher had a tough time combing through, literally the whole world, to find the right team. But she did pull through and now is in talks with five universities and governments like Africa so that they can sign up for FullCircle and make it available for their students and citizens respectively. "When it comes to governments, we are focusing on localising our services and because different countries have different regulations when it comes to these things, we are working on the legal aspects," says Ananya. So, what's the end goal for this ambitious youngster? "In the next five years, we want every student to have access to mental health care," she says with determination.
Looking at all that Ananya has accomplished and wishes to achieve, we are sure that Dr Kalam is smiling down upon the youngster from heaven above.
For more on them, check out teamfullcircle.org