Face and voice recognition technology set to transform diagnosis of perinatal depression

Thursday, 20 October 2022

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology developed to use face and voice recognition to help recognise and predict depression in pregnant women and new mums has received funding to develop it as a clinical tool.

University of Nottingham Spin out company BlueSkyeye AI Ltd has secured £3.4 million to pursue its mission to improve people’s quality of life through the use of its proprietary face and voice analysis technology with the development of a tool to help diagnose peri and post-natal depression.

Perinatal mental health (PMH) problems are those which occur during pregnancy or in the first year following the birth of a child and affect up to 27% of new and expectant mums and covers a wide range of conditions. However, research has shown that negative attitudes and stigma towards diagnosis and treatment can result in women avoiding seeking help.

Image from Avocado app

The research team have developed the Avacado app that can use face and voice recognition to predict the indicators of depression in women from 3 months pregnant to 6 months post-partum. The app can detect facial muscle actions,speech rate, and tone of voice, which is fed into the artificial intelligence technology alongside questionnaire data to analyse emotional state and provide an indication of the risk of depression.

At present the app is used as an indicator of persistent low mood, the next stage is to develop it into a clinical device that can be used to aid the diagnosis of depression and signposting for help and treatment. The team have worked with the Institute of Mental Health to develop the Avacado app and over the next year will work with them and Nottingham University Hospitals to conduct a clinical trial with volunteers early next year.

This emerging technology has multiple applications and the funding will also be used to serve the rapidly growing needs of the Digital Health & Wellbeing and Automotive sectors. From 2024 all new cars sold in the EU must have camera-based driver safety monitoring systems installed. The team will research how these cameras can be used to detect inattention or health events to enhance safety and wellbeing for the drivers and passengers of vehicles.

Founded in 2019, BlueSkeye AI is an Award winning, early stage Healthtech spin-out from the University of Nottingham’s School of Computer Science. It was established by Professor Michel Valstar (CEO) and Dr Anthony Brown (CTO), and Chief Machine Learning and Software Engineer Dr Timur Almaev. The funding was led by XTX Ventures, which invested alongside Foresight Group, the University of Nottingham and a consortium of other VCs and high-net-worth individuals.

The demand for alternative pathways to access mental healthcare is enormous, and continues to grow by the day. We’re committed to disrupting traditional approaches to healthcare to help improve the quality of people’s lives, and we’re particularly focused on the perinatal mental health sector. With the support of XTX Ventures, Foresight Group and other investors, we’ll strengthen the rollout of new clinical trials and product development, and champion the benefits of technology for reinforcing healthcare provision on a national, regional and global basis.
Professor Michel Valstar, Co-Founder and CEO at BlueSkeye AI and Honorary Professor at the University of Nottingham
Jane Icke - Media Relations Manager Science
Phone: 0115 7486462

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