How Artificial Intelligence is Fighting the Battle against COVID-19 - A Review
The novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2 has so far claimed more than 318,000 lives (as on May 18, 2020) and has infected millions of people worldwide. The virus has literally brought down mankind on its knees.
But, even as the numbers continue to spike, good news of Artificial Intelligence or AI being employed for developing innovative solutions for combating the pandemic, provides rays of hope!
Let’s take a look at some of the instances where AI is leading the battle against COVID-19.
- Predicting Spread of the Virus
AI and its subsets help in forecasting and tracking the spread of the coronavirus among populations spanning across geographical boundaries. It was a Canadian AI startup, BlueDot that first discovered the emergence of the novel coronavirus, nine days before WHO made the news public.
BlueDot utilized Machine Learning algorithms and Natural Language Processing tools to examine humongous data from various sources and thus, it could correctly predict the onset of the disease.
- Drug Discovery
AI helps in quicker discovery of drugs within a few months, either from scratch or by identifying and repurposing potential COVID drug candidates from existing drugs used for other diseases.
Some AI-based companies like DeepMind have already researched the protein structures of the virus and have revealed their findings in the public domain for potential vaccine development. Supercomputers can also accelerate drug research.
Diagnosing coronavirus has been made easier by employing Deep Learning and Computer Vision systems to analyze chest X-rays and CT scans for possible infections.
For instance, DarwinAI, another Canadian startup has developed COVID-Net, an AI tool that can detect the virus in chest X-rays. This is really helpful in facilities where there is the shortage of viral testing kits and clinicians.
- Minimizing Human Interaction
Deploying AI systems like drones and robots for COVID relief efforts is a great advantage because person-to-person contact is reduced. Drones are used in many countries for delivering medicines and other essentials, patrolling and disinfecting public places, broadcasting information, etc.
Robots are deployed to do manual tasks like sterilizing isolation wards, delivering medical and food supplies to patients and home-quarantined persons, thermal screening, etc.
- Disseminating Correct Information
Just like the pandemic, misinformation and fake news about COVID-19 are spreading rapidly, and AI helps in tackling this menace.
Powered by NLP, Conversational AI systems like chatbots disseminate accurate information related to COVID-19 symptoms, preventive measures, self-isolation guidelines, etc. in multiple languages round the clock.
AI, being one of the path-breaking technologies used to combat COVID-19, can create a big difference in this crisis time along with the tireless efforts of health workers, and can usher in a new era of digital transformation in healthcare.