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Business Observer Friday, Jul. 12, 2019 8 months ago

Digital health firm awarded $500,000 grant for new technology

St. Petersburg-based TAO Connect will use the funds to develop an artificial intelligence application.

ST. PETERSBURG — The National Science Foundation has awarded a $500,000 grant to TAO Connect, a St. Petersburg company that specializes in technology designed to improve access to behavioral health therapy.

According to a press release, the funds will aid the development of an online “chatbot” — a virtual coach or counselor, of sorts — powered by artificial intelligence. The chatbot will respond to emotions and use evidence-based techniques and models to help users deal with behavioral health problems.

“The continued support from the National Science Foundation has been instrumental in the growth of TAO Connect,” TAO Connect CEO Bob Clark states in the release. “We’re always looking to improve the user experience, and this AI-based chatbot will advance the personalization aspect of TAO Connect’s program.” 

The chatbot technology, the release states, can make suggestions on what to do next, based upon inputs and the user’s profile. It also gathers timely feedback on responses to each interaction, which TAO Connect says will lead to improved recommendations.

“Our AI-based chatbot perfectly fits into our mission to make effective behavioral health therapy more accessible,” states Sherry Benton, founder of TAO Connect, in the release. “AI is transforming many industries and we’re looking forward to implementing it within our platform to advance the behavioral health therapy space and increase accessibility for everyone.”

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