Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster has announced a $20 million CAD project to develop a new digital wellness platform called Wellbeing.ai.
The platform is being developed in partnership with Lululemon, Wysdom.AI, Microsoft, Mitacs, and Queen’s University. Wellbeing.ai aims to leverage artificial intelligence-powered virtual agents or chatbots. According to the Digital Technology Supercluster, a proof-of-concept virtual agent will be tested by the project’s partners in late 2022.
The platform is set to be based on Richmond Hill-based startup Wysdom.AI’s conversational AI tech.
The project aims to use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology to digitize users’ “complete state of wellbeing” and develop digital virtual agents to help them better understand their physical health and mental fitness. The Government of Canada, through the Digital Technology Supercluster, has invested $8.5 million in the project. Wellbeing.ai’s industry partners have agreed to provide the remaining $11.5 million.
“This is a great example of bringing together Canada’s globally leading capabilities in digital innovation and artificial intelligence with a homegrown global technical apparel brand to create game-changing approaches to health and wellbeing,” said Supercluster CEO Sue Paish.
The platform is set to be based on Richmond Hill startup Wysdom.AI’s conversational AI-optimization technology. Project lead, Vancouver-based apparel brand Lululemon, is set to provide data, tools, and resources and become the first commercial business to leverage this tech as part of Lulelemon’s aim to achieve its impact agenda goals.
According to Jeff Brunet, the founder and president of Wysdom.AI, the main challenge associated with virtual wellbeing is “collecting the data needed to build a digital brain that provides insights and can better understand human interactions and environmental interactions with our environment.”
Brunet called physical inputs, including weight, activity, heart rate, and hours of sleep, “well defined and easily measured,” but said there remains a need to define the inputs that underlie emotional and social wellbeing.
Founded in 2012, Wysdom.AI, formerly known as CrowdCare, offers conversational AI software in the form of smart, fully managed virtual agents. In 2017, Wysdom.AI secured $8.5 million to bring AI to customer support.
According to François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s minister of innovation, science, and industry, the proposed platform aims to help address the challenge of physical and mental wellness through the pandemic. Champagne added, the project is expected to create 140 jobs. Wysdom.AI has already hired five people in relation to this project.
The federally-funded Superclusters co-invest with industry partners to develop digital innovations through a collaborative research and development (R&D) model, which Paish said enables Canadian organizations of all sizes to tackle big problems while also gaining access to otherwise inaccessible resources and expertise.
Canada has five Superclusters: British Columbia’s Digital Technology Supercluster, the Prairies-based Protein Industries Canada Supercluster, Ontario’s Next Generation Manufacturing (NGen) Supercluster, Quebec’s Scale AI Supercluster, and Atlantic Canada’s Ocean Supercluster.
In April, the Government of Canada committed an additional $60 million to the Superclusters, over two years, as part of its 2021 budget. This investment comes on top of an initial $950 million, over five years, committed by the federal government as part of its 2017 budget.
It also follows lobbying efforts by three of the five Superclusters, including the Digital Technology Supercluster, to increase their government financing, as they were on track to have fully committed budgets two years ahead of schedule.
An October 2020 report released by the parliamentary budget officer found the Superclusters were far behind their spending and job creation goals as of March 2020. Following the release of that report, however, former innovation minister Navdeep Bains told BetaKit the Superclusters had seen “enormous progress” since the beginning of COVID-19, as they ramped up their spending in response to some of the pandemic’s most pressing challenges.
As of June 2021, Champagne said the Superclusters have announced 235 projects involving over 700 business partners. The minister of innovation claimed 80 percent of these partners have been small to medium-sized businesses.
Photo of Jeff Brunet of Wysdom.AI, courtesy of the Digital Technology Supercluster