Arthritis Research UK introduces AI-powered ‘virtual personal assistant’ 

24 Mar 2017 News

Arthritis Research UK has developed a virtual personal assistant using artificial intelligence technology to provide beneficiaries with answers more quickly and easily. 

The new service, developed with technology firm IBM Watson, answers questions in a conversational way through the charity’s website. It is currently being tested by 300 people before being rolled out widely later this year. 

IBM Watson is IBM’s artificial intelligence arm, which focuses on building solutions and programmes that use machine learning to improve analysis and increase understanding of data.

Arthritis Research UK has tapped into IBM Watson’s conversation API - a set of rules which allow a computer to talk to a person - and combined it with its own information resources to provide people with tailored answers to questions about the condition. 

'Innovative new service' 

Liam O'Toole, chief executive at Arthritis Research UK, said: “We know that there are millions of people in the UK living with arthritis whose lives are severely limited as they struggle with unanswered questions. We want to ensure that everyone has access to information and support, whenever and wherever they need it.

“We’re really excited to be working with IBM Watson on this innovative new service that will enable us to have conversations with anyone seeking help, that we simply wouldn’t be able to answer so quickly otherwise. We’re confident that this new virtual assistant will help more people push back the ways arthritis limits their lives.”

At first the service will provide general information about arthritis and exercise. Later it will be able to answer a broader range of questions on subjects like diet and treatment options. 

The charity also plans to introduce voice recognition capability so that people can talk to the virtual assistant.  


Civil Society Media's annual Charity Technology Conference will take place on 9 November 2017 at the Mermaid Conference Centre in London. Find out more here.

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