Every year, our school does a Grand Challenges Research project where they focus on important topic in the world. This year, the focus is on mental health which providing cost-effective treatment and make it accessible to everyone. We all may know someone who has a phobia, came back from a tour in the military, or is living with another mental illness, 1 in 5 Americans to be exact. As the increase of mental health awareness rises, the availability of appointments with counselors and treatments lessens. Additionally, we this could be used to provide at home inquires for people who are hesitant to get help. With Alexa M.D. we hope to use IoT (internet of things) to bring the necessary treatment to the patient for better access, cost, and also to reduce the stigma of mental illness.
What it does
The user can receive information and various treatment options through Alexa M.D. First, the user speaks to Alexa through the Amazon echo, the central interface, and they can either inquire about various medical information or pick at-home treatment options. Through web-scraping of Web M.D. and other sites, Alexa M.D. provides information simply by asking. Next, Alexa M.D. will prompt the user with various treatment options which are a version of exposure therapy for many of the symptoms. The user will engage in virtual reality treatment by re-enacting various situations that may usually cause them anxiety or distress, but instead in a controlled environment through the Oculus Rift. Treatments will incrementally lessen the user's anxieties; they can use the Leap Motion to engage in another dimension of treatment when they are ready to move to the next step. This virtualizes an interaction with many of the stimuli that they are trying to overcome. When the treatment session has concluded, Alexa M.D. will dispense the user's prescribed medication through the automated medicine dispenser, powered by the Intel Edison. This ensures users take appropriate dosages while also encouraging them to go through their treatment session before taking their medication.
How we built it
We used the Alexa skills sets to teach the Amazon Echo to recognize new commands. This enables communication to both the Oculus and our automated medicine dispenser through our backend on Firebase. We generated various virtual environments through Unity; the Leap Motion is connected to the Oculus which enables the user to interact with their virtual environment. When prompted by a medical questions, Alexa M.D. uses web-scraping from various medical websites, including Web M.D., to produce accurate responses. To make the automated medicine dispenser, we 3D printed the dispensing mechanism, and laser cut acrylic to provide the structural support. The dispenser is controlled by a servo motor via the Intel Edison and controls output of the medication as prescribed by Alexa M.D.
Challenges we ran into
We found it difficult to sync the various components together (Oculus, Intel Edison, Amazon Alexa), and communicating between all 3 pieces.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
The Internet of Things is the frontier of technology, and we are proud of integrating the 3 very distinct components together. Additionally, the pill dispenser was sketched and created all within the span of the hackathon, and we were able to utilize various new methods such as laser cutting.
What we learned
Through the weekend, we learned a great deal about working with Amazon web service, as well as Amazon Alexa and how to integrate these technologies. Additionally, we learned about using modeling software for both 3D printing and laser printing. Furthermore, we learned how to set up the Arduino shield for the Intel Edison and integrating the leap motion with the Oculus Rift.
What's next for Alexa M.D.
We hope that this can become available for all households, and that it can reduce the cost necessary for treatments, as well as improve access to such treatments. Costs for regular treatment include transportation, doctors and nurses, pharmacy visits, and more. It can be a first step for people are are hesitant to consult a specialist, or a main component of long-term treatment. Some mental illnesses, such as PTSD, even prevent patients from being able to interact with the outside world, which present difficulties when going to seek treatment. Additionally, we hope that this can reduce the stigma of treatment of mental illnesses by integrating such treatments easily into the daily lives of users. Patients can continue their treatments in the privacy of their own home where they won't feel any pressures.