Face and voice recognition technology set to transform diagnosis of perinatal depression

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology developed to use face and voice recognition to help recognise and predict depression in pregnant women and new mums has received funding to develop it as a clinical tool.

University of Nottingham Spin out company BlueSkyeye AI Ltd has secured £3.4 million to pursue its mission to improve people’s quality of life through the use of its proprietary face and voice analysis technology with the development of a tool to help diagnose peri and post-natal depression.

Perinatal mental health (PMH) problems are those which occur during pregnancy or in the first year following the birth of a child and affect up to 27% of new and expectant mums and covers a wide range of conditions. However, research has shown that negative attitudes and stigma towards diagnosis and treatment can result in women avoiding seeking help.

The research team have developed the Avacado app that can use face and voice recognition to predict the indicators of depression in women from 3 months pregnant to 6 months post-partum. The app can detect facial muscle actions,speech rate, and tone of voice, which is fed into the artificial intelligence technology alongside questionnaire data to analyse emotional state and provide an indication of the risk of depression.

At present the app is used as an indicator of persistent low mood, the next stage is to develop it into a clinical device that can be used to aid the diagnosis of depression and signposting for help and treatment. The team have worked with the Institute of Mental Health to develop the Avacado app and over the next year will work with them and Nottingham University Hospitals to conduct a clinical trial with volunteers early next year.

This emerging technology has multiple applications and the funding will also be used to serve the rapidly growing needs of the Digital Health & Wellbeing and Automotive sectors. From 2024 all new cars sold in the EU must have camera-based driver safety monitoring systems installed. The team will research how these cameras can be used to detect inattention or health events to enhance safety and wellbeing for the drivers and passengers of vehicles.

Founded in 2019, BlueSkeye AI is an Award winning, early stage Healthtech spin-out from the University of Nottingham’s School of Computer Science. It was established by Professor Michel Valstar (CEO) and Dr Anthony Brown (CTO), and Chief Machine Learning and Software Engineer Dr Timur Almaev. The funding was led by XTX Ventures, which invested alongside Foresight Group, the University of Nottingham and a consortium of other VCs and high-net-worth individuals.

“The demand for alternative pathways to access mental healthcare is enormous, and continues to grow by the day. We’re committed to disrupting traditional approaches to healthcare to help improve the quality of people’s lives, and we’re particularly focused on the perinatal mental health sector. With the support of XTX Ventures, Foresight Group and other investors, we’ll strengthen the rollout of new clinical trials and product development, and champion the benefits of technology for reinforcing healthcare provision on a national, regional and global basis.” Professor Michel Valstar, Co-Founder and CEO at BlueSkeye AI and Honorary Professor at the University of Nottingham

For more information please visit Blueskeye AI

Steve Cliffe joins BlueSkeye AI as it scales the development of its technology and customer portfolio

BlueSkeye AI appoints Steve Cliffe to its board of directors.

BlueSkeye has deepened the deep tech expertise on its board by appointing former CEO of Ultraleap, Steve Cliffe as a Non-Executive Director and special advisor.  Steve Cliffe joins BlueSkeye as the company scales and advances its ethical AI technology, partnerships and customer portfolio.

Rebecca Ganz, Chair of BlueSkeye board and Non-Executive Director at Bolton NHS trust, said “we are really looking forward to having Steve join us. BlueSkeye has ambitious plans to apply its proprietary technology within clinical and industry contexts in pursuit of transforming lives and improving global mental health. We anticipate benefitting significantly from Steve’s broad experiences and knowledge.”

Steve brings more than two decades of executive leadership experience to BlueSkeye. In September 2021, Steve won the TechSpark LifeTime Achievement Award in recognition of his contribution to  leadership of Ultraleap, the global leader in hand tracking and haptics technology. Steve was founding CEO of Ultraleap, during this time his achievements included growing the company to a global team of 170, overseeing several successful funding rounds, leading international expansion and managing acquisitions.

“It is wonderful to welcome Steve to our Board and have him support our growth and ambition”, said CEO of BlueSkeye, Professor Michel Valstar.  “Steve will bring a wealth of industry experience to BlueSkeye as we focus on our long -term goal of becoming one of the most impactful companies in the social robotics and health and wellbeing sectors”.

“I am delighted to join the BlueSkeye Board and look forward to working with Michel and the BlueSkeye leadership team, and the entire board as BlueSkeye moves to an exciting new phase of growth”, Steve Cliffe said.  “There has never been a more exciting or appropriate time for ethical AI and machine learning to inform the developing Social Robotics and Virtual Assistants sector and to contribute to the evolution of the delivery of healthcare.  I am excited to bring my experience to transform these markets with BlueSkeye”.

As leader of Ultraleap, Steve Cliffe has overseen a number of strategic investments and  acquisitions including San Francisco’s Leap Motion which significantly enhanced Ultraleap’s IP portfolio and product offering. Steve’s leadership of Ultraleap saw the company recognised as one of the 50 most innovative in the West of England and he was instrumental in securing major deals that have seen Ultraleap’s technology installed in virtual reality, augmented reality, automotive markets amongst others.

An alumnus of Nottingham University, Steve studied Electronic and Electrical Engineering and is delighted to be supporting BlueSkeye, an SME spin-out from Nottingham University. “It is good to be back in Nottingham after many years and to the commercialisation of innovative world-leading technology based on Michel’s rigorous evidence-base”.

Steve Cliffe’s appointment to BlueSkeye follows several other recent hires that have joined to support the rapid expansion and extension of the company.

More about Blueskeye