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In Journal of medical Internet research ; h5-index 88.0

BACKGROUND : Chatbots empowered by artificial intelligence (AI) can increasingly engage in natural conversations and build relationships with users. Applying AI chatbots to lifestyle modification programs is one of the promising areas to develop cost-effective and feasible behavior interventions to promote physical activity and a healthy diet.

OBJECTIVE : The purposes of this perspective paper are to present a brief literature review of chatbot use in promoting physical activity and a healthy diet, describe the AI chatbot behavior change model our research team developed based on extensive interdisciplinary research, and discuss ethical principles and considerations.

METHODS : We conducted a preliminary search of studies reporting chatbots for improving physical activity and/or diet in four databases in July 2020. We summarized the characteristics of the chatbot studies and reviewed recent developments in human-AI communication research and innovations in natural language processing. Based on the identified gaps and opportunities, as well as our own clinical and research experience and findings, we propose an AI chatbot behavior change model.

RESULTS : Our review found a lack of understanding around theoretical guidance and practical recommendations on designing AI chatbots for lifestyle modification programs. The proposed AI chatbot behavior change model consists of the following four components to provide such guidance: (1) designing chatbot characteristics and understanding user background; (2) building relational capacity; (3) building persuasive conversational capacity; and (4) evaluating mechanisms and outcomes. The rationale and evidence supporting the design and evaluation choices for this model are presented in this paper.

CONCLUSIONS : As AI chatbots become increasingly integrated into various digital communications, our proposed theoretical framework is the first step to conceptualize the scope of utilization in health behavior change domains and to synthesize all possible dimensions of chatbot features to inform intervention design and evaluation. There is a need for more interdisciplinary work to continue developing AI techniques to improve a chatbot's relational and persuasive capacities to change physical activity and diet behaviors with strong ethical principles.

Zhang Jingwen, Oh Yoo Jung, Lange Patrick, Yu Zhou, Fukuoka Yoshimi


artificial intelligence, behavior change, chatbot, communication, conversational agent, diet, intervention, natural language processing, physical activity