For a moment, think about all of the ways technology has become part of how humans keep fit, stay healthy, and improve their lifestyle. We go to the gym, and the treadmills there are smart enough to tell us how fast we are going, how much resistance we are facing, and how far we have travelled. Pedometers can be attached to our bodies totally up our strides for the day. Fitbits track our fitness levels and act as our personalised trainers. Earphones provide a soundtrack to our exercises to help keep us focused. We use a multitude of devices to look up nutrition tips, or ways to eat healthier. And hospitals rely on various pieces of technology to keep people alive.
I say ‘we’ and ‘our’ a lot, and I use these quite generally — not everyone has a fitness regime or a gym membership, or a devotion to certain kinds of health habits. No matter how into it you are, or aren’t, it’s clear that staying healthy often means interacting with some form of technology.
And we know that technology often evolves very quickly. We’ve come to the stage in chatbot development where great efforts are being made to familiarise the public with their different functions, styles, and uses. Whether or not this has been successful, is difficult to say. They certainly have a greater presence on social media than they did in the past. Before this year, I’d had some interactions with chatbots in various ways, but that was the limit of my involvement with them. Then, I came across SnatchBot, and made a student mental health bot in a few days. I also realised that platforms like SnatchBot are more common than you would think — though SnatchBot is entirely free, and as far as I know, it’s going to remain that way.
I built a health bot to test the waters of this technology. I found that apart from being very intuitive in its design — I just imagined myself in the user’s position — there are certain pitfalls that need to be avoided, and there are also certain elements that are crucial and need to be included.