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Have You Met Vie, Viome’s Artificial Intelligence System?

May 22, 2019

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Viome is on a mission to eradicate chronic illness. To achieve this aspirational goal, we want to develop the most profound understanding of human biology in existence.

A few decades ago, scientists thought the answers to illness could be found in the human genome, which consists of only 20,000 genes. By comparison, our microbial genome is comprised of between 2 to 20 million microbial genes, making human genetic material 99% microbial. As a result, to fully understand the human body, we must start by analyzing the gut microbiome, the richest source of microbes.

At Viome, we use a toolkit with artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze the biological data and learn more about the gut microbes. Our AI system, which we’ve named ‘Vie,’ uses data from four sources:

  1. Biological testing: Currently, our primary testing is for the gut microbiome; however, in the future look out for blood transcriptome and more.
  2. Expert knowledge: Experts in the fields of microbiology, nutrition, and medical science are closely involved in training Vie and updating its knowledge base as new insights and experience become available and relevant.  
  3. Customer feedback: Customers provide us information about their phenotypes (e.g., symptoms) via questionnaires, as well as how they are following recommendations and the results they are seeing.
  4. Scientific literature: We also incorporate insights from carefully curated scientific publications, so Vie has access to scientific knowledge that is ready to be applied.

Training Vie is an ongoing process that is continually evolving. We’re convinced that this process will eventually result in the most comprehensive collection of information available about the human gut microbiome and its impact on human biology.

Why We Started with the Gut Microbiome

The gut is critical to overall human health. Our level of microorganisms is so rich in fact that we’ve come to realize that we are merely hosts. To understand the inner workings of our guts, we need to understand its microbiome. Through the development of RNA sequencing, we can see everything that is happening in precise detail. We’re looking at the biological molecules that tell us about the structure, function, and behavior of the active microbes in your gut.

The results and recommendations you see in your Viome app are the culmination of the analysis of millions of pieces of data.  More specifically, your individual gut microbiome test results in approximately 5 gigabytes of raw data. To put that in context, that amount of data equates to tens of thousands of books—more than most people could ever read in a lifetime.

So, how do we take all that information and distill it into something useful and actionable to humans?  This is where Vie comes in.

Vie’s Unique Powers

Vie is capable of analyzing vast amounts of data—far more so than any human could do. Biology is wonderfully complex, and only through the power of AI analysis can this amount of data be analyzed to find actionable insights with dramatically fewer errors.

Vie sifts through mountains of data to find correlations among microorganisms, their functions, and external issues that people face. Through mathematical techniques, statistics, decision analytics, and logic, Vie is able to process massive data sets and discover patterns algorithmically. Vie makes it possible to understand your microbiome test with greater accuracy and speed.

Vie is also built to work within a clear set of boundaries. If Vie’s isn’t highly confident in a result, she punts it to a human expert to take a deeper look. Adding a human into the loop ensures that our findings and recommendations are kept to a high standard of accuracy while offering our subscribers the best of both worlds. Think of Vie as your partner in discovery as we unravel the mysteries of the gut microbiome and beyond.

There’s No Need To Be Scared Of AI

Due in part to the depiction of AI in sci-fi movies, many people think of artificial intelligence as human-like robots that eventually turn on us. Fortunately, we are a very long way from artificial intelligence ever coming close to a Ridley Scott fantasy. But concerns of the unknown still exist.  At Viome, we understand that without the use of AI we will never be able to eradicate chronic illness.

Here are three of the most common artificial intelligence myths debunked:

  1. Artificial intelligence mimics humans: Humans have wonderfully complex brains that can imagine, explain, empathize, and socialize. Think about how much you’ve been through to become the person you are today—decades of complex experience, trial, and error. We are very far from having machines capable of doing everything that our bodies and minds can do.
  2. Artificial intelligence will take all our jobs: Most artificial intelligence enhances knowledge-based work and will make the output more effective. For example, there are not enough medical scientists and doctors to address all diseases in all people in the world, and AI can augment these experts.  Will AI change the job landscape? Definitely, and we humans have to learn new skills to work in partnership with machines.  We will need a period of adaptation, but we believe that humans are equipped to handle these potential changes.
  3. Artificial intelligence is scary: Only if you watch too many movies! Artificial intelligence is nowhere near ready to take over the world. If anything, it’s going to enhance many aspects of our lives and make things run more smoothly. You’re already using AI regularly with services like Uber, Spotify, Alexa, Siri, Amazon, and even when your banking institution flags your account for potential fraud.

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Have You Met Vie, Viome’s Artificial Intelligence System?

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