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Brief Published: 20 Jun 2013

Mobile Wellness: Siri as Samaritan


Mobile-based personal assistant apps are becoming increasingly influential in consumers’ lives. Today’s smartphones are privy to huge swathes of information about a user’s life, with access to location data, internet history, phone records and much more.

Proactive personal assistance services, such as Donna from Californian company Incredible Labs, are already using this information to manage diaries and work schedules. In the future, this sophisticated data-gathering technology could be employed to offer tailored health and wellness advice to users.

Earlier this week, US tech giant Apple updated its voice-controlled assistant software Siri to offer a more sophisticated response to suicide-related requests. As a result of the update, Siri now offers to call the US-based National Suicide Prevention Lifeline if it detects the mention of suicide or related terms. If the user declines, Siri will pull up a list of all nearby suicide prevention centres based on the user’s location. Previously, given a direct request, Siri would provide users with contact information for the helpline but provide no prompt to make the call.

Apple has also expanded Siri’s natural language abilities, allowing it to recognise more indirect references to mental wellbeing. The update is available to users running iOS 6 and iOS 7.

See Artificial Intelligence: Man and Machine to find out more about the future of digital companions, and read our Health & Technology report from this year’s South by Southwest Festival for more on how next-generation sensors could transform the health and wellness industries.