A start-up that provides mental health services using AI and IoT? Here's how that works

Kunwar Sahi, an LPU student, has developed NeuroX — a service that combines the field of psychiatry with biomedical engineering
Kunwar Sahi receiving the award for Best Innovation in AI Hardware | Pic: Sourced
Kunwar Sahi receiving the award for Best Innovation in AI Hardware | Pic: Sourced

The 'rise of the machines' is certainly raging on and its proponents like AI and Machine Learning are proof of that. One thing that a lot of us might consider impossible for technology to take over is reading the human mind. But the time has come to rethink that notion. Kunwar Sahi, a third-year Biomedical Engineering student from Lovely Professional University in Punjab has developed a start-up, NeuroX, that aims to provide predictive and diagnostic mental health services using Artificial Intelligence of Things or AIoT. How cool is that! Kunwar received the award for 'Best Innovation in AI Hardware' by the All India Council for Robotics and Automation and was felicitated at the Global Artificial Intelligence Summit and Awards 2021. We spoke to him to know more about the service, how it came about and what features would be developed in the coming months. Excerpts from the conversation:

How did NeuroX come to be?

Along with Biomedical Engineering, I am also pursuing a minor in Psychology. During last year's lockdown, I had a few friends who were suffering from anxiety and depression. I was doing a course from IBM on Machine Learning and I considered using AI to aid people looking to get psychiatric healthcare. So, I took it up and talked to a friend who is a Computer Science student and he helped me develop the algorithms. It took around five months to set it all and we launched the programme in July this year.

There are a lot of disciplines that have merged into making your start-up successful. How did you manage to navigate your way through?

I feel like it was 50-50 of my programme helping me in the start-up but also picking up a few things on my own. My minor in Psychology helped as well. I have also published a couple of papers in the field of Psychiatry, so that allowed me to explore the academic discipline. 

Take me through the working of NeuroX?

We are an AI-enabled mental health start-up. We have inculcated AI for diagnosis, prediction, prognosis and treatment plan recommendations, along with AI hardware, which is all connected with an internet of things framework. The predictory service is one through which we can predict the probability of occurrence of various mental disorders. The diagnostic service has cleared the alpha testing phase and is now in beta testing. The diagnostic service functions along with our team of three psychologists and two psychiatrists. Till now, we have given over 60 counselling sessions. 

Tell us about the hardware developments that you have engineered and how they augment your service.

We have filed six patents for our devices. One of them is the transdermal patch that contains anti-anxiety medication in it. It is attached to the skin as well as a smartwatch through IoT. So during a panic attack, the command can be given through the smartwatch to activate the patch and provide instant medication on site. We have also developed nanorobots that can be injected into the bloodstream. Through this, we can control the action of nerve impulses and this can help treat neurological disorders like Parkinson's disease as well as psychiatric disorders. Basically, we control the activity of neural signalling. 

What are some of the hurdles that you've had to overcome?

Initially, we needed to get users on board with our idea and for that we needed to have a social media presence and to have a certain number of followers. Also, we had to cut through the taboo of mental health, especially in India and moreover with the use of AI in this field. But the upside is that we are in this exciting field of providing affordable mental health services from the comfort of one's home by being online.

So where do you see the start-up going?

What we aim to do is through our website, which we are developing, we want to automate the service. At NeuroX, we firmly believe in automation. We will have an AI bot that will give a prediction and diagnosis on the spot along with provision for automated payments. Ideally, we want to keep our team of individuals small and compact. We want to rely more on our technologies. At the same time, there will always be a psychologist available for counselling because AI lacks emotion and counselling involves suggestions based on empathy. We cannot completely do away with human knowledge. 

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