France Launches Telephone Voice Assistant for Coronavirus Questionnaire

France has released a voice assistant accessible by phone to help people determine if they are infected with the novel coronavirus. The new AlloCovid service then works to determine what emergency or medical service they might need.


AlloCovid’s voice AI answers a call to the hotline with, “Bonjour, I’m your virtual AlloCovid assistant. Are you ready to start the questionnaire?” The AI then launches into a quiz that can help determine if the caller is experiencing the relevant symptoms and if they are likely to have been exposed to the virus. While callers don’t have to give their names, they are asked about their postcode to help the medical authorities determine potential new outbreaks of the disease.

The hotline was developed by the University of Paris, research institute INRIA, and French railway company SNCF. It can handle up to 1,000 calls at a time. The idea was to make it easier for people to work out if they might have the virus, and where an outbreak might be. The new phone line is aimed especially at older people who might be less likely to use a mobile app or fill out a form online. Data collected from the calls is kept for a week by authorities until it is destroyed. France has set its official lockdown end for May 11 at the moment, which makes data about potential future outbreaks crucial.

AI Health Help

France is not the first country to turn to AI as a way to help out citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic. Estonia developed a chatbot to answer questions about the coronavirus, while India and the UK have each published a WhatsApp chatbot to handle similar queries. The difference is that AlloCovid puts the whole system into a phone call, similar in some ways to how Google Assistant can be reached by a phone number in India. Meanwhile, in the U.S., healthcare providers are teaming up directly with companies like Orbita to build interactive voice and text chatbots, integrating Hyro’s free coronavirus-focused version of its virtual assistant, or adapting Microsoft’s template for the same purpose.

State governments in the U.S. have also started asking voice app developers like Voicify to design ways to communicate with citizens about COVID-19 through Alexa and Google Assistant. Voice assistants are providing their own answers courtesy of the CDC and the World Health Organization. Alexa and Siri both use the CDC’s COVID-19 questionnaire to assess potential infection.


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