Using technology to fight the new coronavirus is a challenge that is mobilizing scientists around the world. PhD student Murilo Gazzola, from USP’s Institute of Mathematical and Computer Sciences (ICMC), in São Carlos, created a specific solution to be used in the WhatsApp messaging application: CheckCorona.
Just add the number +55 16 981128986 on WhatsApp, write CheckCorona and send the message. Automatically, the robot created by Murilo responds to the request and sends instructions to help you identify what measures to take. “It is a robot programmed to ask simple questions and perform a kind of first call through the messaging application”, explains Gazzola.
When the pandemic of the new coronavirus advanced around the world, the doctoral student identified that many doubts would arise, especially about when people should go to the hospital, if they had any symptoms. So, voluntarily, he developed the robot and put the solution on the air on February 29.
The project is among the 71 ideas selected in the Covid-19 Challenge, an initiative of the Public Ministry of Pernambuco and the State Health Secretariat of Pernambuco, which accounted for a total of 543 proposals submitted and will provide up to R $ 1.3 million in prizes.
Held through Porto Digital and its Open Innovation Lab, the Covid-19 Challenge began on Friday, March 20, and proposed the development of solutions for the pandemic that were highly impactful and implemented in the very short term. “The desired impact is to reduce the speed of contagion, allowing the number of seriously infected people in need of hospitalization to be within the operational capacity of the health system, as well as minimizing the impact of virus transmission”, stated on the initiative’s website .
According to Gazzola, the robot was created based on the international standards of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) to help people make the best decisions, avoiding unnecessary panic and reassuring patients who are not with clear symptoms of the disease. In case of an affirmative result, the tool guides the person to the next steps, such as isolation and when to seek treatment and laboratory tests.
Applied learning It was during his studies at the ICMC, under the guidance of Professor Sandra Aluísio, that Gazzola had the opportunity to understand techniques of natural language processing (PLN) and deep machine learning (deep learning) and obtain the fundamental technical knowledge to build this type of solution in big data (big data). Before creating CheckCorona, the doctoral candidate developed, in 2018, an application for WhatsApp aimed at detecting fake news together with other researchers from the ICMC Interinstitutional Nucleus of Computational Linguistics (NILC).
“My goal is to put into practice what I have learned and help society. This was one of the reasons that led me not to leave Brazil”, reveals Gazzola. He also says that he chose to create an application for WhatsApp because the tool is widely used in the country by people of all social classes, unlike applications that, to be installed, require the use of more modern smartphones.