Thistledancer74 left a review on Bengaluru-based life-coach app Wysa that dropped hints about the person’s battle with depression: “I’m Aspergian (characterized by difficulty in social interaction) and sorting out what’s what feelings on or what about things is mostly impossible confusing to me. 2018 had had a lot of life happen to me. To be blunt I’m probably alive right now because of this app.”
Wysa, which has helped many like Thistledancer74, is part of the second cohort of the Apple App Accelerator in Bengaluru. It calls itself a 4-am friend. It offers a personalized toolkit to build emotional resilience and for cognitive behavioural therapy for those under emotional stress. Wysa will be part of the 2019 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, US, next week.
Wysa co-founder Jo Aggarwal, who went through a bout of depression before deciding to start the company, said India has 5,000 psychiatrists and 2,000 clinical psychologists and these mental health professionals are underbooked. UK, at a fraction of India’s population, has nearly 10 times that number, and they still have a waitlist of 12 months for therapy. “This shows how much stigma and lack of access there is for mental health support in India, and also across the world,” Aggarwal said.
Aggarwal and her cofounder Ramakant Vempati said the accelerator programme helped them to build accessibility features for the visually-challenged to seek emotional support. “Additionally, it helped build an app for Apple Watch and Siri shortcuts so people get support for negative emotions, log their mood and do gratitude journaling,” Aggarwal added.
At the heart of the tech is AI and machine learning capabilities written by psychologists and life coaches. The app has 1.2 million users and Indians account for 20% of them. North East London NHS Foundation Trust uses Wysa for children’s mental health.
Apple’s App Accelerator, which turned two in April, supports innovative iOS developers on design, quality and performance of their apps. It assists developers to build apps for multiple iOS platforms – iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, MacBook, iMac, and Apple TV.
Indian developers have created nearly 100,000 apps for the App Store and over 700,000 app economy jobs have been created by the burgeoning iOS ecosystem in India.
“Indian developers are also benefiting by becoming a part of a larger global community brought together by Apple at its Annual WorldWide Developers Conference WWDC,” an industry source said.
Ahmedabad-based Designmate, which focuses on providing immersive biology content for schools, developed an augmented reality app for iOS in April last year. Called Froggipedia, it helps students observe the lifecycle of a frog and virtually dissect its anatomy. Founder and CEO Captain KJ Brar sought help from mentors at the App Accelerator to leverage Apple Pencil for dissection.
“Dissection is all about precision and the Apple Pencil is all about precision. The app also has used the pressure sensitivity feature of the pencil. In a lab, while cutting, if you cut the muscle layer with too much force, you disrupt the organs. The same experience is replicated in the app. If the user uses too much pressure with the pencil to cut, it tells you that you have made a deep cut. But here you can redo your steps and continue with the dissection,” said Brar.
Froggipedia won the iPad App of the Year Award last year, the only app in Asia to have been given this honour. Designmate has also launched Brainapse, an educational app that helps users explore the complexity of the human brain using augmented reality, and Plantale, which explores a plant’s life and which was showcased at an Apple event in New York.
Bengaluru-based pregnancy and maternal wellness app PregBuddy is another venture that has benefited from the accelerator. The app, founded by IITians Subhadeep Mondal and Sivareena, is used by 75,000 expecting mothers across India. “Globally, it’s the first maternal health app that allows an expecting mother to track her vitals and symptoms right from her Apple Watch. The data gets instantly synced with her doctor and care team’s system at the hospital,” said Mondal.
PregBuddy’s iOS app allows expecting mothers to access personalised, engaging and doctor verified articles providing vital information on a baby’s growth, body changes, exercises etc. Mothers can also keep track of vitals such as weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar, and can record up to 43 visible symptoms.―Times of India