Home / Issues  / Meet the digital Sir John Kirwan

Meet the digital Sir John Kirwan

Sir John Kirwan’s digital double is the latest feature on mental wellbeing platform Mentemia.

Launched by Kirwan himself, Mentemia provides people with simple tools and techniques to incorporate into their daily routine in order to improve their mental wellbeing. The development of Digital John Kirwan (DJK), comes as an additional support to the mental health sector and to reach more people in need.

The first AI-powered version of Kirwan features DJK as a sleep coach, who will offer tips on sleep, answer sleep-based questions, and help users develop a sleep improvement plan. Kirwan says the first iteration of DJK will be worked on as it has more interaction with users and learns how to behave and respond.

“You can chat with DJK and help him grow,” says Kirwan. “As he learns more overtime, DJK will be able to offer more personalised advice and cover many more areas of wellbeing. We need to talk more about mental health and DJK offers people a different way to access information.  

One of the most effective and efficient ways of reaching as many people as possible is through the use of digital solutions, which the team at Mentemia took into account when creating DJK. The result is the collaborative work of digital human specialists, Uneeq, and AI conversation development experts, Ako, in conjunction with Kirwan and Mentemia’s team of medical advisors.

Using 180 cameras, the team took hundreds of photos of Kirwan’s face from numerous angles to create a 3D representation of the character then used to sculpt DJK.

“It’s very similar to the technology used to create characters in the movies or in the gaming world,” says Shehan Bala, director of product at Uneeq. 

“The wrinkles have to look like his real wrinkles and getting things like DJK’s grin right is essential because the difference between creepy and natural is a lot finer than you think.”

Although DJK has been created to assist with mental wellbeing, Kirwan says it is not a replacement for real therapists.

“AI is a really important part of the future of mental wellbeing and Mentemia is at the forefront of that technology.”

“We hope through DJK our users will see the potential of how AI can support their mental wellbeing in the future. As an additional digital support, we believe it is a valuable new option for people to consider.”

Mentemia’s foundation partner, DB Breweries, has taken part in bringing DJK to life, with managing director Peter Simons saying the digital human is much more realistic than expected.

“I felt comfortable opening up about my sleep habits and getting tips to try from a digital human,” says Simons.

“Working with Mentemia is about giving our people the tools to feel good and function at their peak. We’re all looking forward to seeing how DJK can help improve our mental wellbeing.”

The free version of Mentemia was made available for all Kiwis in April to help support mental wellbeing during the first Covid-19 lockdown. It has been downloaded more than 110,000 times across New Zealand and Australia.

Review overview