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CUE receives federal funding to develop an AI-based mental health chatbot

Posted on: Dec 9, 2021

CUE is pleased to announce it has received $203,000 from Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada (ISED) through the Accessible Technology Program (ATP) to develop an artificial-intelligence-based chatbot. The project will be co-led by CUE’s Centre for Applied Artificial Intelligence (CAAI) and the BMO-Centre for Innovation and Applied Research (BMO-CIAR).

The ATP funds innovative projects led by the private sector, not-for-profit organizations and research institutions to develop assistive and adaptive devices and technologies to make it easier for Canadians with disabilities to fully participate in the digital economy. According to Statistics Canada, Canadians aged 25-64 with disabilities are less likely to be employed (59 per cent) than those without disabilities (80 per cent). Additionally, 60 per cent of youth living with disabilities in Canada report having a mental-health-related disorder.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to set the conditions for youth experiencing mental health challenges and disabilities to be successful in the digital economy,” said Mike Wade, director of the CAAI. “Especially as we emerge from COVID-19, digitization is reality. This support from the government will allow us to develop cutting-edge technology to create an inclusive environment.”

CUE’s chatbot, an advancement to the intelligent conversational “natural language processing” based technologies, will serve as a companion tool for persons with mental health and cognitive disabilities including anxiety, mood, obsessive-compulsive and personality disorders, as well as attention deficit hyperactivity. These conditions often impair the ability of individuals to cope with professional responsibilities and personal priorities. 

The chatbot will use artificial intelligence to create a personalized knowledge database that simplifies internet and information search, summarizes key learning points, and guides the user through the process of discovery to the application of information. The initial phase of the project will focus on students at CUE to incorporate a multi-layer dialogue component and establish a user search history database. This approach will enable the CAAI and BMO-CIAR to incorporate emotional aspects of the user as they begin building their personalized database for compiling relevant and specific search outcomes, mimicking a “real-human” search. 

“CUE has adopted a culture that prioritizes mental health,” said Dr. Manfred Zeuch, vice-president of External Affairs and International Relations at CUE. “Our commitment to mental health combined with our focus on innovation and digitization makes CUE the perfect place for this kind of work to take place. We are grateful for the support of the Government of Canada and look forward to launching our chatbot in the near future.”