AI in Quarantine: How AI is Easing Lockdown Life
Covid-19 has ushered in an unrecognisable way of life. Our stay-home society is being subject to unprecedented levels of strain as global lockdowns continue to demand rapid adaptation to a novel form of normality. In this article, we explore how AI can empower individuals to cope with the everyday challenges posed by social distancing.
Supporting Domestic Abuse Victims
Months of quarantine is seeing alarming increases in rates of domestic violence. Indeed, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline have reported a 25% rise in calls since lockdown commenced. Thankfully, emerging AI technologies can ease the burden for these support services and offer a secure outlet for abuse victims.
An AI Chatbot – such as that developed by London-based company: ‘AIforGood’ – can be an accessible, anonymous and covert first point-of-contact. Using sophisticated Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithms, the application engages in conversations with users – helping them to understand domestic violence without fear of judgment or ridicule.
The AI system comprehends users’ messages and generates useful and actionable responses. For example, they can offer advice on how to react to certain situations and direct them to local support services if necessary. AI for Good’s platform integrates an interactive quiz to help confirm normal conduct and alert users to unhealthy behaviors indicative of an abusive relationship. It also offers real-life stories from others who have gone through similar experiences with a view to inspiring change and projecting positivity.
Similarly, a top Australian law firm is investigating the efficacy of a law-based AI support tool. The app helps victims log evidence of assault and reconstructs incoming information to generate complex court documents. For example, it can analyse and structure input to produce an affidavit in much the same way as a lawyer would. As well as empowering victims to challenge their situation, the solution eases the caselaod for public Pro Bono services who are likely to experience a surge in cases once lockdowns are relaxed. Thus it frees time for these services to aid more victims with a wider range of problems.
The workload of the everyday parent has gained substantial weight in recent weeks. Among a host of added responsibilities, nation-wide school closures has given parents a far greater role in their children’s education.
AI platforms can lighten the load and applications are already available to help children learn certain subjects. Take Bluetik, for example – an AI platform that assists kids with mathematics. As a pupil completes an assignment, the programme marks work in real time, points out potential errors before the calculation is complete and offers alternative solutions and methods once the assignment is finished. Using NLP technology, the platform deploys three virtual teachers – each with their own personality and teaching style. Crucially, such AI-led approaches can adapt lessons according to the needs of individual students. It can predict when a student is struggling and decelerate progression accordingly, or increase difficulty if assignments seem too trivial.
As such, AI-powered tools can support parents and teachers as they adapt to their new roles. Further, they will help sustain high quality education for pupils finding their feet in a entirely new working environment.
Mental Health in Lockdown
It seems inevitable that these near-universal lockdowns will have a detrimental impact on the nation’s collective mental wellness. By limiting communication with loved ones, reducing outdoor activity and constraining diverse lifestyles, the effects of quarantine may overload mental health services. Even before lockdown, the need for support services had surpassed availability by a considerable degree. The introduction of these new social stressors will likely deliver unprecedented levels of demand.
AI can help to alleviate this pressure. For example, mental health chatbots can offer round-the-clock emotional support to those in need. These fully automated conversational agents interact with users, identifying their mood, highlighting key thoughts underlying their emotional strains and explaining how to replace these maladaptive thoughts with more helpful alternatives.
Being available 24/7 means that users can access this help on demand and at their darkest moments. Indeed, these moments are statistically more likely to occur out of working hours when human support is generally unavailable. Additionally, Chatbots have the benefit of total anonymity. Thus, they can be a great outlet for those reluctant to seek help from official services. Importantly, these solutions are not designed to replace the human support network. Rather, they are an accessible first point-of-contact, offering support when humans are unavailable and giving suggestions on who to contact.
As we have explored in previous posts, the global effort to combat coronavirus and survive lockdown is being empowered by a host of emerging AI technologies. At unnerving times such as these, it is vital to seek help whenever necessary and AI can offer a safe and secure source of support.