• Merck
    Comprehensive Ophthalmology

    Merck says it will use the same deep learning technology that powers Amazon Alexa to create voice-enabled aids for people suffering from chronic diseases.

    The partnership will launch within the next month with a call to entrepreneurs and those in the technology industry to come up with innovative ideas for helping people better manage treatments and communicate with caregivers. Merck plans to initially work on diabetes.

    The consultancy firm Luminary Labs will organize the challenge. While specifics haven’t been released, the call to action will “be open to solutions broadly enough that innovators of all stripes can come up with really novel ideas but being narrow enough to provide guidance and carefully evaluate submissions,” said Sara Holoubek, founder and CEO of Luminary Labs.

    “Users will soon go far beyond turning on lights or calling an Uber, and will venture deeper into healthcare, helping people better manage treatments and communicate with caregivers," Holoubek said. "From reminding people of their nutrition plans to scheduling their insulin dosages, the Merck-sponsored challenge will call on developers to push the boundaries of voice technology for people with diabetes."

    An independent jury will evaluate proposals based on how well they address patient issues with Type 2 diabetes.

    Merck's long-term plan is to create tools for other chronic diseases using the same platform and the voice-enabled Alexa home system.

    “Merck has a deep heritage of tackling chronic diseases through our medicines, and we have been expanding into other ways to help, beyond the pill,” said Kimberly Park, vice president, Customer Strategy & Innovation, Global Human Health, Merck. “We are excited to leverage the Amazon Web Services Cloud to find innovative ways to leverage digital solutions, such as voice-activated technology, to help support better outcomes that could make a difference in the lives of those suffering from chronic conditions like diabetes.”