Image source: Zepp Health

Data-driven health coaching: How AI & wearables are joining forces

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been making strides in various sectors, and the health and fitness industry is no exception. A recent study published in Nature Digital Medicine suggests that AI chatbots can be effective life coaches, particularly in the areas of diet, exercise, and sleep.

While chatbots offer personalized coaching, wearables excel in collecting a wide array of health data – everything from heart rate to sleep patterns. When this data is integrated with AI chatbots, the result is a more nuanced and data-driven personal coaching experience. For instance, a chatbot could analyze the data from a wearable device to provide more targeted exercise recommendations or nutritional advice. The convergence of these two technologies will redefine the landscape of personalized health management in the coming years.

The study

The research, conducted by the University of South Australia, found that participants who had access to chatbots took an average of 735 more steps a day, equating to roughly an extra third of a mile walked daily. In addition to this they had additional serving of fruits and vegetables and an extra 45 minutes of sleep per night.

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One of the challenges in health and fitness is maintaining user engagement. Wearables often come with their own set of motivational features, such as goal-setting and progress tracking. AI chatbots can take this a step further by offering real-time feedback and personalized coaching, thereby increasing the likelihood of sustained user engagement.

The study also made a compelling case for text-based chatbots over voice-based ones. This is an important distinction, especially for wearable technology that often has limited display capabilities. Text-based interactions allow for more thoughtful responses and could be more effective in conveying complex health advice. This suggests that future wearables might focus more on text-based interfaces for health coaching, rather than voice-activated features.

Of course, both technologies come with their own set of limitations and risks. For wearables, issues like data privacy and accuracy are paramount. For chatbots, the risk of providing incorrect health advice exists. A combined approach should address these concerns through robust security measures and ethical guidelines.

The investment landscape

The study comes at a time when tech companies are starting to invest in AI chatbot technology. One example is Zepp Health which has been rolling out a series of AI-based updates and coaching features for its range of Amazfit smartwatches. But other companies have lofty ambitions in this area, as well.

However, the rush to capitalize on this technology should be tempered with caution. The technology is still nascent, and there’s a risk of receiving incorrect or misleading advice. This is where the human element, perhaps in the form of expert reviews or oversight, can play a crucial role. A hybrid model that combines AI with human expertise could offer a more reliable and nuanced health coaching experience.

The study opens up the question of scalability. Can these results be replicated on a larger scale, and how would the technology adapt to a more diverse user base? These are questions that future research will need to address, especially as both AI chatbots and wearables aim for mass adoption.

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Marko Maslakovic

Marko founded Gadgets & Wearables in 2014, having worked for more than 15 years in the City of London’s financial district. Since then, he has led the company’s charge to become a leading information source on health and fitness gadgets and wearables.

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