Mentalk was created because of different close situations we had and it is the evolution of another project called Bot Vanessa that was a virtual tool with artificial and emotional intelligence aimed to help people with physical challenges or technological illiteracy to manage the computer in an easier way. Later, after different episodes with relatives involving depression and even suicide attempts, we realized that mental disorder symptoms are invisible almost always for the person that is suffering them as well as those surrounding… and maybe people think about it when it is too late.
Under these circumstances, we decided to create a global solution for a problem that goes further than any border.
According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), around 13% of the world population suffer from some mental disorders. Countries like Spain have found that depression is the second most popular illness after high blood pressure. World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in Colombia 80% of the population have had between one and three symptoms of depression in a certain moment of their lives; and if we carefully see the global data, these kind of conditions have been increasing due to different situations such as limited access to specialists, wrong diagnostics, lack of information, lack of recognition by the people around them, etc.
We decided to start this project which can grow, reach and impact the entire planet, looking to work closely with psychology and the new technologies making it accessible to any person and offering a solution for the different actors: -Psychologists: a very useful key for their job. -Patients: decreasing the number of people without mental health care. -Users: increasing the number of people trained to detect the symptoms in an early stage.
What it does
We are a virtual tool looking to offer a global solution for the mental health issues affecting our society, using new 360 immersion technologies, artificial intelligence and data mining among others. We offer an easy solution with easy access to anyone that follows just few steps to detect and validate possible disorders in a little conversation; we also offer supplemental treatment and training for those that would like to learn how to detect the symptoms in others.
How we built it
-First, we tried to define the initial condition to diagnose inside our beta tool choosing depression as the most common issue nowadays. -We started with a very exhaustive theory investigation on clinical psychology focusing on detection, diagnosis and treatment. Once we had those parameters, we tried to systemize and organize them. -After, we were looking to create and design the artificial character that would guide and interact with the user or patient based on different parameters aspiring to develop an emotional and empathic bond with it. -Finally, we used technologies, tools and algorithms to put all the pieces together creating a compact solution easy to use by any person with any background.
Challenges we ran into
-One of the main challenges we faced was the ability to interact with the different treatments offered in the tool without affecting the clinical psychology theory. We were looking to adapt it to grow discovering the applications of treatments based on behavioral activation principles. -Another challenge was developing the adaptive and scalable algorithms to recognize the syntax and emotional logic in a simple conversation in Spanish. -The synchronization of the animated videos interacting with the user in React 360 was also very complex, as well as the selection and integration of the voice recognizing system due to obsolescence, malfunction or difficult installation. It was very challenging to find a tool that would adapt completely to our needs. -Finally, we faced the challenge of selecting and obtaining an adequate server able to support and accomplish all the requirements to install he tools for the app.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
-We are very proud of using different technologies together under one tool, offering a solution to a very common issue that is affecting lots of people in our society and it has been highlighted in the item #3 within the Sustainable Develoment Goals to be accomplished in 15 years by United Nations. -After we tested our beta tool in some users, we discovered that is very well accepted due to the privacy it offers as well as speed and an accessible price. -Right now, FENALCO SUR de SANTANDER designated us to be recognized within Colombia as the most important Social Innovation startup in 2019.
What we learned
-We learned that is possible to create solutions to help any patient joining technology and psychology. -In the procedural area, we discovered the existence of different technologies able to speed up the development of virtual reality apps working with Node JS and a wide range of options like the use and applications of scenes and renders among other functions as well as the NPM modules installation.
What's next for Mentalk
-Out tool will be the starting point open to anyone that would like to use technology for other investigations planning to add other treatments, training systems and even new symptoms and conditions to the inventory in our platform. -We want to be seen as the main solution used by the mental health national policies. -We are aiming to create alliances with mental specialists to follow up the results inside the tool -We are working to create an educational and training module for the psychology students recreating different cases with virtual scenarios and avatars.