While artificial intelligence continues to have its mainstream moment, healthcare brands are exploring ways to use the technology to assist patients with challenging medical conditions.
To that end, Brazil-based pharma company Eurofarma recently collaborated with Dentsu to launch an app that aims to help people with Parkinson’s slow down the progression of the disease — all while they scroll through social media.
The app, called Scrolling Therapy, is an experimental AI tool that utilizes facial expression recognition to allow Parkinson’s patients to engage with social media using just their facial expressions. These can include a smile or movements of the mouth, nose or forehead.
The idea is to encourage people with Parkinson’s to exercise their facial muscles, which could possibly help delay hallmarks of the incurable, neurodegenerative disease: muscle atrophy and hypomimia — or the lowered ability to make facial movements.
Sebastián Porta, a patient with Parkinson’s who helped the Dentsu and Eurofarma teams design the app, said it is difficult for him to sit in front of a mirror for 45 minutes a day and watch facial expressions changing in front of his eyes.
“Living with the disease is already difficult enough without literally facing it in the mirror every day,” Porta continued. “That’s why I felt very motivated to propose a technology that could support all patients through an entertaining activity, which is browsing social media.”
To access Scrolling Therapy, people can download the app on a phone or tablet, and it will automatically integrate with Facebook and Instagram. Five facial gestures allow for different engagements: A surprise face results in a scroll down, while a sad face triggers a video to start playing. A smile is a “like,” while an angry face leads to a swipe.
Scrolling Therapy is currently available for free on Google Play, and will soon be available on the Apple App Store. It’s available in three languages: English, Portuguese and Spanish.
Notably, the tool hasn’t been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and Eurofarma notes that there’s no solid proof it can help slow the progression of the disease.
Still, experts who worked on the app said they are optimistic about the potential of the tool to encourage Parkinson’s patients to exercise.
“Our expectation is that, associated with specialized rehabilitation, this innovative technology can engage our community to stay active,” Dr. Erica Tardelli, a physiotherapist specialist in Parkinson’s and president of Brazil Parkinson Association, said in a statement.
Rafael Rizuto, chief creative officer, U.S. and Hispanic LATAM for Dentsu Creative, also pointed to the exponential power of AI in the tool.
“At a time when AI is facing skepticism and being vilified, this is using its powers for good to benefit society and to help provide quality of life for many people who live with this disease,” he said.