Losing weight can be a challenge, even for those who exercise daily. Around 10,000 steps a day might not be enough when one’s eating habits are far from ideal. But could AI recommend diets that might help us lose weight? Healthifyme, which claims to be the leading app in the health space in India, certainly thinks so.
The company is gearing up to launch Ria 2.0, its personal assistant, which can make instant diet recommendations to users. Ria was launched back in October 2017 for users, though for the last one year it has been limited to Healthifyme’s premium customers.
For those who are not aware, Healthifyme is an India-based calorie tracking app, which can also track a range of Indian foods. The app has a paid version as well, where users can chat with an actual nutritionist and a health coach in order to get the most out of their wellness goals.
With Ria 2.0, Healthifyme will add more AI-driven features to the assistant as it expands globally. The company has also launched its app in markets like Malaysia, UAE, and plans to enter Saudi Arabia as well.
“Ria for the last one year was available only for premium customers. And there were instances when it would fail, and the nutritionist would have to take over. But with Ria 2.0, the assistant does not fail. It can answer most of your queries around a particular food item, diets, etc,” explained Tushar Vashisht, CEO and co-founder of Healthifyme while showcasing the new version of their assistant.
For instance, if one were to tell Ria 2.0 that they had an aloo paratha for lunch, it recommends going easy on the dinner with something lighter, a meal with perhaps more proteins. Or you can check your progress for the day. Or you can ask Ria if chocolates are a good choice for a snack, the answer might not be the one you had hoped for.
With Ria 2.0, the company will launch a new ‘Smart Plans’ feature, where the assistant recommends a preset diet instead of just relying on the nutritionist for a more premium plan. These Smart Plans will cost Rs 299 per month, which is lower than the premium plans.
The ‘Smart Plans’ suggested by Ria 2.0 will be customised based on the user’s age, weight, goals, as well as any existing pre-medical conditions, which can be entered at the time of setting up the app. Ria 2.0 will only be accessible for those who opt in for the paid Smart plan, though the company does offer a one-week free trial.
As Vashisht explains, the app takes into account medical conditions like diabetics, Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS, Hypertension, etc when deciding a user’s diet, though he admits there is scope to add more conditions. According to him, the new AI is more contextually aware and knows the user’s exact goal, and can even morphe itself towards a user’s needs.
While Ria 2.0 will sound eerily similar to the Google Assistant – that’s because the company is using Google API for voice to text- the assistant relies on its own neural network to give out recommendations for diet and answer other queries around food, health data.
“Ria 2.0 has deep knowledge graph where it is looking at the habits of all of the customers and creating clusters based on similar habits, and then making the recommendations,” explains Vashist. He points out that Ria 2.0 matches patterns of users to recommend a particular diet.
Vashist says the company has its own 12-member team working its Artificial Intelligence algorithms, which includes data scientists and experts in the field of AI.
In fact, the company is also working on integrating Ria with Google Assistant and Alexa in the future. What this would mean is that users could ask Google Assistant to use Healthifyme to check calorie data for a specific food. Ria would then give the answer via the Google Assistant app itself. This is still in the works, though they plan to roll it out in the course of this year.
The company also wants to add more languages to Ria 2.0 and is testing out Hindi, Tamil, Malay and Arabic. The reason for the last two is the global expansion into Malaysia, UAE, where the app claims to have made a strong entry.
Another feature of Ria 2.0 will be Snap, which can identify food from plates when a user takes a picture of the same. It will let users log food and the calories instantly by just taking a picture. The company claims Ria can identify around 10,000 most tracked dishes.
It will also be able to identify and recommend a healthy option from a restaurant menu in the future as well from when one is ordering food via some of the popular food order apps. The 2.0 version is in beta currently with all the key updates expected to roll out by February 2019.
But are users ready to take health advice from an Assistant? Data from Healthifyme appears to suggest so.
According to the company, the last quarter for 2018, Ria was handling 51 per cent of the volume of messages, they received on the platform. The app has around 8 million total registered users and saw 650 million messages and food logs, workouts tracked on its platform last year.
The company’s CEO says the fact that Ria has started handling more messages than actual nutritionists on the platform is a paradigm shift.
“That users are preferring to engaging with AI is a big deal. Of course, the non-judgemental nature of an AI could be a big part of it. But the AI is also instantly available. Humans can take a few hours. For instance, the user’s nutritionist might be busy with someone else at a particular time. Ria is always there, which also explains why more users preferring her,” he said.