AI Talk: COVID-19, telehealth, jobs and simulations

March 20, 2020 / By V. “Juggy” Jagannathan, PhD

This week’s AI Talk…

COVID-19 and Telehealth

Telehealth has been knocking at our doors for almost a decade. Now, it looks like the COVID-19 pandemic is the tipping point making telehealth go mainstream. The $8.3 billion emergency response bill to combat the pandemic from Congress features telehealth prominently.  Folks who have any flu-like symptoms are encouraged to call their physician office, engage in remote evaluation and take appropriate action—that’s what the CDC recommends. There is a growing realization that you can do a lot with remote interaction with just a phone and a camera. One physician has indicated he is able to examine the throat of the patients with a regular mobile camera. Of course, there is now a range of technology that is available from monitoring vitals, blood pressure and a whole range of peripheral devices such as remote stethoscope and heart monitors. Perhaps all these devices will become more ubiquitous and televisits will become the norm, as opposed to the exception!

Simulations and visualizations

One of the classic tools that scientists employ with any situation is to model it and there has been a good deal of modeling of the spread of the coronavirus. A model published in the Washington Post simulates the spread and visualized it as well. The animations that are shown here are quite instructive. Also, take a look at this 10-minute Youtube animation that explains very clearly the nature of exponential curves with a bit of math thrown in. These animations show why policies such as social distancing and limiting gatherings to 10 or below work and why they may even be necessary to curb the spread of this virus. Good educational tools!

Driverless trucks and jobs

We have known for some time that the trucking industry is ripe for disruption. What came as a surprise to most, including the truckers themselves, is the timeline for this disruption. Last Sunday, CBS’ 60 minutes did an extensive piece on this topic. A company called TuSimple is actively testing a fleet of long-haul driverless trucks on real roads. Actual demonstration runs are scheduled for next year. The autonomous trucks are not a decade away, but just a few years away, which explains the shocked expressions of truckers filmed by the CBS 60 minutes crew. I hope policy makers and Congress can develop solutions to address employment concerns of the millions of truckers who will be impacted. In the near term, companies that will weather the current pandemic are those that focus on delivering goods. Amazon just announced it is hiring 100,000 in response to a surge in online orders. 

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V. “Juggy” Jagannathan, PhD, is Director of Research for 3M M*Modal and is an AI Evangelist with four decades of experience in AI and Computer Science research.