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Reducing bullying with AI-powered WatsomApp on the IBM Cloud

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WatsomApp bullying preventionBullying is a serious issue in schools around the world, and the growing popularity of social media can make it harder than ever for victims to find safe spaces. Bullying can lead to low self-esteem, isolation and depression. Even though its effects are very serious, bullying goes unnoticed by a student’s parents and teachers for an average of nine months.

The goal for WatsomApp, a startup based in Spain, is to prevent and reduce harassment in the classroom. WatsomApp’s founders knew that identifying and addressing bullying faster would improve children’s learning experiences and quality of life. Company leaders also understood that children didn’t always feel comfortable talking about bullying with the adults around them.

Empowering children to speak out

WatsomApp took an innovative approach to the problem, enabling children to talk about bullying with an avatar instead of a human being. The aim was to create an environment where children felt comfortable speaking about issues that were bothering them. WatsomApp also wanted to confidentially share those insights with teachers so they could take action.

WatsomApp’s plan was ambitious, and the company knew it would need leading-edge AI technology to make it happen. But as a small startup, large-scale capital investments were out of our reach.

That’s when IBM entered the picture. WatsomApp’s headquarters in Madrid are close to an IBM building, and a meeting between WatsomApp’s founder and CEO Gustavo Beltrán and an IBM employee sparked WatsomApp’s interest in the IBM Global Entrepreneur program. Get the full story by reading the IBM case study.

Deploying advanced AI in the IBM Cloud

Not only did IBM offer WatsomApp access to enterprise-class AI technologies such as IBM Watson Assistant, it also provided the IBM Cloud development platform WatsomApp needed to move its ideas from the drawing board into production.

Today, practically all of WatsomApp’s mission-critical infrastructure resides in the IBM Cloud, including the application servers, MongoDB databases and NGINX load-balancing platform. The company’s robotic avatar, powered by an IBM Watson chatbot, now lends a compassionate ear to 3,000 students in Spain. WatsomApp is also building up a presence in Peru, and plans to launch its platform to schools worldwide.

Stopping bullying in its tracks

To identify children at high risk of becoming a bully or a victim, WatsomApp first gives students an online game to play. By analyzing their playing styles, the company can identify the persona that best fits each child. This insight helps inform the kinds of questions that our avatars have with the children, making it easier for us to figure out if bullying is happening, and who’s involved.

WatsomApp’s service is already proving to be a highly effective way to root out bullying in the classroom. The company is getting glowing feedback from children, teachers and school psychologists alike. Crucially, WatsomApp’s service helps cut the time it takes for teachers to recognize that bullying is happening from nine months to as little as one month.

To learn more about the work we’re doing, read the IBM case study.

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