If Pope Francis wearing a puffer jacket does not ring a bell, you may be unfamiliar with the power and realism of AI-generated images.
AI-generated images have swept the internet since the 2021 and 2022 launches of image generation software DALL-E and Midjourney. In March, a photo created by Midjourney went viral appearing to show the Pope on a stroll in a long, white winter coat, with many people unaware that the picture was manufactured.
Instead of using the technology to dupe the internet, Neal Shah, founder of CareYaya Health Technologies, is using the tech to provide art therapy to hospice patients.
CareYaya is an eldercare connection company, using technology to connect trained, college-aged caregivers with families in need of assistance caring for their elderly loved ones. Based in Research Triangle Park, CareYaya has found success by working with college students, including those from University of North Carolina Wilmington.
The company works with between 150 and 200 UNCW students who use the program as a way to gain service hours before applying to higher education in the health field, Shah said.
Shah and his co-founder, Gavry Eshet, launched CareYaya’s art therapy program, called “Pocket Picasso” or “Picasso AI,” last week, he said. Working with college students allowed the program to roll out somewhat seamlessly, he said, because they are digital natives who are comfortable using this kind of technology.
OpenAI’s DALL-E software update, DALL-E 3, made the program possible. Its new application programming interface, or API, allowed Shah’s team to code and integrate the AI-generating technology into the CareYaya app. They pay a fee per use, Shah said, but users get the service for free.
Caregivers have a conversation with the patient to create a prompt which they feed into the AI software. The technology, which mimics the styles of multiple artists, will generate an image based on what the patient says, Shah said. The software has also been trained on data surrounding psychology and the benefits of art therapy, so it generates an image and text explaining the representation behind the image based on the prompt.
The benefit of art therapy in end-of-life care is what fuels Shah to make this experience more affordable and accessible to those in hospice. David Casarett, section chief of palliative care at Duke Hospital, is an investor and chief medical advisor for CareYaya, Shah said. Casarett advised Shah’s team on where the gaps in care are in the end-of-life care experience.
“Art therapy is tremendously beneficial for people,” Shah said. “People in serious illness and end-of-life (care) want art therapy once a week, a couple of times a week. They're getting it at best once a month because of the staffing shortage and how much it costs.”
The goal for CareYaya’s "Pocket Picasso" is to allow for art therapy experiences to happen more often because many people in end-of-life care may not have months to wait for the availability of an art therapist, Shah said.
Art therapy can aid in anxiety and pain relief in hospice patients, Shah said. Talking with the caregiver is half the benefit, as creating prompts for the AI model can spur meaningful conversations about the patient's feelings.
Shah said CareYaya’s pairing of AI-generated images and psychology data is unique in the healthcare field.
“AI is out there and a lot of people are building AI tools for SalesForce automation and things like that," he said, "but I think that repurposing this stuff for huge human impact in these fields that people wouldn't think about, that's where you can make a huge difference.”