KIT - Winner of the AXA Health Tech and You 2019 Mental Health in Children Challenge

24 June 2019

Voice-based digital companion could help improve children’s mental health

Nearly half of 8-15 year olds have their own tablet1, meaning that children and teens are rapidly adapting to new methods of communication with their peers, whether it’s messaging on Snapchat or posting to their Instagram story. However, because so much communication is now text based they can sometimes lack the confidence to use their voice.

Tech has moved quickly towards artificial intelligence and speech recognition in the last few years, something that tech company Hebe have been incorporating into their prototype app KIT, a voice-led platform that aims to act as a friendly and trustworthy confidante to help children build their social confidence.

We spoke to Aimée Bryan, Founder of Hebe, about KIT’s journey through development before winning the AXA Health Tech & You Mental Health in Children Challenge.

Building confidence in kids

KIT began when Aimée noticed the negative conversations parents were having around screen time and social media. “I wanted to let people know that technology could be used for good ­– my mission was to show parents that tech and social media is something to be revered, not feared,” says Aimée.

Using this philosophy, Aimée and her team began developing a new technology that could benefit children and help them to build their social confidence, realising that their mental health is something that needed to be addressed.

Artificial intelligence meets voice recognition

The technology behind KIT recognises negative language, mood and mental health cues from the child listening 100% with zero judgement. As the app interacts, listens and learns the nuances of each child, it evolves its prompts and social cues to help improve their language skills and emotional awareness.

During the 2018 autumn school term, they tested the prototype for KIT with 1,000 children, their teachers and a group of parents. The children were matched to a personal avatar using a personality test and were encouraged to verbally chat with KIT, as it does not use text-based conversation.

“When you have great communication, you generally have good mental health, and we wanted to target children when technology hits their pocket for the first time.

“It doesn’t aim to replace the role of parents, therapists or friends, but offers an empathetic ear when a child needs to be heard.”

Being an AXA Health Tech & You Awards winner

When asked how they felt to be the winner of the AXA Health Tech & You Mental Health in Children Challenge, Aimée said: “Being an AXA Health Tech & You winner has given me the shot of confidence I need to keep going! Being a founder, particularly a solo founder, can be a lonely journey with so many knock-backs.

“Having a business like AXA publicly believe in both me and my product, as well as share my vision to improve mental health for children, is fantastic.”

The Mental Health in Children Challenge category looked for solutions that can support children and/or their parents in understanding and managing mental health. The solution had to focus on any mental health problem and part of the journey from pre-diagnosis to treatment.

Eugene Farrell, Mental Health Lead at AXA PPP healthcare, said: “I and the fellow judges of the Mental Health in Children Challenge felt that KIT was outstanding in this category. It exhibited the most innovative technology offering, shifting the focus from an app or screen-based communication to voice journaling.

“The use of voice technology here is very powerful, and could make a real difference to a child experiencing mental health issues, almost becoming a friend to talk to.”

1. Ofcom (2018). Children and parents: Media use and attitudes report. [online] London, p.3. Available at: [Accessed 10 Jun. 2019].