Florence is a 24/7 virtual health worker able to provide digital counselling services to those trying to quit tobacco. She also shares WHO public health messages and recommendations on tobacco and COVID-19.
There are over 1.3 billion tobacco users in the world. Many want to quit, but lack the necessary support to do so. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation worse by reducing the availability of face-to-face advice services that individuals normally access through their health systems.
To address this challenge, WHO partnered with Soul Machines, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud to develop an artificial intelligence bot, Florence, to support tobacco cessation during the pandemic.
Digital counselling in real time
Florence is programmed to hold a number of brief conversations with users through voice or text. She helps them take their first steps towards quitting tobacco, giving them the confidence to achieve their goals by drawing up a personalized strategy for quitting. She also suggests WHO-recommended digital cessation programmes, such as toll-free quit lines, apps and text messaging services available in their country.
Unlike chat bots, Florence provides real-time emotional responses and uses facial expressions. She is capable of processing and responding to audio, visual and textual information provided by users. Furthermore, the system does not collect or store user data. Florence speaks English, but will soon also speak Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish.
Quitting smoking is more important than ever, as smokers are more likely to develop severe COVID-19 compared to non-smokers. As an innovative digital solution, Florence has the potential to overcome barriers set by the pandemic and provide much-needed cessation support to millions of people wishing to overcome both physical and mental addictions to tobacco.