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E55: Can AI help us understand the cries of babies?

Updated: Apr 30

The Ask AI podcast caught up with Charles C. Onu, the CEO and Co-Founder of Ubenwa Health, the Montreal AI startup whose Nanni mobile application enables professionals and parents to "shazam" the cries of babies to get actionable healthcare insights in hospital delivery rooms, nurseries, and homes.


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Episode 55 of the Ask AI podcast features an interview with Charles C. Onu, the CEO and Co-Founder at Ubenwa Health.


Based in Montreal, he and his team are pioneering the use of AI technology to detect neurological conditions in newborns by detecting patterns in the sound of their cries.


Charles' AI journey began in Nigeria, where he worked with NGOs that exposed him to many pressing healthcare challenges.


This actually sparked a personal dilemma where he found himself caught between his love for mathematics and a desire to help people.


The answer was to merge his passions and focus his mind on creating AI-powered healthcare solutions that can improve the lives of millions.


Charles pursued advanced studies in Canada and his achievements at Montreal’s MILA institute earned him a prestigious Vanier Fellowship as well as a ‘Rising Star in AI’ award from Harvard University.


In post-academia life, he joined forces with co-founders Samantha Latremouille and Innocent Udeogu and together they started to explore AI for neonatal care applications.


This activity gave birth to Ubenwa Health, a startup whose Nanni app translates baby cries into actionable healthcare insights in a range of environments including delivery rooms, nurseries, and homes.


Ubenwa has already won multiple awards (including three from MIT alone) for its innovative approach and strong clinical foundation.


Tune in to this episode as Charles Onu shares his fascinating journey and gives expert insights into this incredibly promising healthcare application of artificial intelligence technology.


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What you'll discover in this episode


AI-Powered Neonatal Care [2 mins]: Charles introduces Ubenwa, an AI startup that translates baby cries into actionable health insights, attracting significant investor interest and winning multiple awards for innovation in neonatal care.


Inspiration from Clinical Observations [6 mins]: Charles explains that his inspiration came from clinicians who could interpret the different cries of babies to predict health issues. He discusses how AI could replicate these abilities.


Challenges and Solutions in Data Collection [9 mins]: Discussing data collection challenges, Charles mentions the lack of baby cry recordings in medical records and how Ubenwa collaborated with international hospitals to develop recording protocols.


Global Impact and Adoption [10 mins]: Ubenwa's technology has users from nearly every country, demonstrating its global impact and the universal need for better tools to interpret baby cries.


Vision for the Future [14 mins]: Charles shares his vision for integrating Ubenwa’s technology into various settings from home baby monitors to hospital ICUs, aiming to standardize this AI tool in neonatal care.


Community and Team Building [15 mins - 17 mins]: Charles highlights the importance of his team, including co-founders and advisors like Yoshua Bengio, and their commitment to using AI for good in neonatal care.


Broader Potential Applications [19 mins]: The conversation touches on potential future applications of their sound analysis technology, such as understanding animal communications, showcasing the versatility of their AI platform.


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