How this mental health care app is using generative AI to improve its chatbot

Andrea Campos struggled with depression for years before founding Yana, a mental health care app, in 2017. The app’s chatbot provides users emotional companionship in Spanish. Although she was reluctant at first, Campos began using generative artificial intelligence for the Yana chatbot after ChatGPT launched in 2022. Yana, which recently launched its English-language version, has 15 million users, and is available in Latin America and the U.S.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

How has your product evolved since you introduced generative AI to it?

At first, we didn’t use generative AI because we believed it was far from ready for mental health support. We designed and guardrailed our chatbot’s responses with decision trees. But when ChatGPT launched and we saw what it could do, it wasn’t a question of whether to use generative AI or not, but how soon — we’d fall behind otherwise. It’s been a challenge because everyone quickly began developing with generative AI, but our advantage was that, having operated our chatbot for a while, we had gathered over 2 billion data points that have been invaluable for our app’s fine-tuning. One thing is clear: It’s crucial to have a model tailored to the specific needs of our product.

What was the biggest challenge of developing an AI wellness companion?

Firstly, to create a safe and intelligent chatbot that offers adequate answers to our users. Another significant challenge was our initial focus on Spanish-speaking users. Addressing regional dialects, slang, and cultural differences was difficult because most AI models were primarily trained in English. There are thousands of ways someone can signal they are in crisis in Spanish.

Why enter the U.S. market where there is already a broad offering of English-language AI companions?

There are many AI companions in English but most aren’t designed for emotional companionship or are focused on businesses. We believe it’s time to offer English-speaking users the same supportive tools that have already helped millions in Latin America. Plus, there’s a huge Latino population in the U.S. that we also aim to reach with our Spanish version.


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