October 3, 2022

Nigerian AI Startup Wants To Diagnose Sick Babies By Analyzing Their Cries

Black-owned health startup Ubenwa uses artificial intelligence to detect early diseases in babies and their cries. 

The startup’s learning system analyzes the amplitude of a baby’s cry and uses cutting-edge AI to diagnose infants up to six months old. By analyzing the frequency patterns of a baby’s cry, the AI-powered software picks up on brain and lung conditions in young infants. 

Communicating with babies

Ubenwa was co-founded in 2017 by Charles Onu, Samantha Latremouille, and Innocent Udeogu. The startup combines AI techniques with medical expertise to detect breathing conditions and birth asphyxia (lack of oxygen) in infants. The platform aims to simplify the process of seeing health issues within children. 

“If my head were hurting, I’d say my head is hurting. If a baby’s head were hurting, it would cry. If it had a stomachache, it would also cry. So the question was, ‘how can we improve communication with babies?’” Onu said in an interview with TechPoint. 

“I first came to appreciate the gravity of the infant mortality problem that we have and started looking into it myself, adapting some previous work I had done on infant cry research.” 

Working with doctors

Ubenwa first connected with clinic research doctors to collect data to help develop the algorithm that analyzed babies’ cries. The innovation makes it easier for parents and healthcare professionals to detect health issues within infants before physical symptoms emerge. 

Earlier this year, Ubenwa closed a $2.5 million pre-seed funding round and has dedicated the additional funds to conducting clinical validations. 

Although the system has received many doubts from outside, Ubenwa is currently working with doctors in Nigeria, Canada, and Brazil to gather more data to enhance the app and conduct more clinical validations.

Kumba Kpakima

Kumba Kpakima is a reporter at POCIT. A documentary about the knife crime epidemic in the UK got her a nomination for the UK's #30toWatch Young Journalists of the Year.