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Creator highlight: Ariel Poler

Mark Ammendolia
|
December 18, 2019

A true self-starter

Ariel Poler is a true self starter to say the least.

He previously founded and ran three Internet companies (I/PRO, Topica & TextMarks) and currently serves on the boards for Neosensory, Freedom Financial, UCSF Health Hub, HUMM Inc. and Returnly. Previously, Ariel served on the boards of some high profile technology companies, including Strava, Stumble Upon, and Odeo.

Having been deeply involved in the tech sector since the .com boom, Ariel developed a passion for emerging technologies. His specific focus was in digital technologies that enhance our natural capabilities – an exciting new field broadly referred to as human augmentation that can profoundly change the way we live our lives.

But what makes Ariel unique is not just the depth of his experience and expertise — it’s his ability to innovate and break ground, especially within an unchartered area that’s still developing.

Alexa learns hypnosis

A few years ago, when Ariel attended the BrainMind Summit at Stanford University, he met Dr. David Spiegel - a renowned psychiatrist and expert in therapeutic hypnosis.

It didn't take long for the two of them to end up working together. Dr. Spiegel had a brilliant idea: create a hypnosis app that could help thousands of individuals from the comfort of their homes. Ariel recommended using Alexa as a potentially powerful use-case for implementing hypnosis. Since hypnosis relies heavily on auditory cues and communication, it seemed like a perfect match.

At the time, there was no drag and drop tool for building voice apps, so Ariel used AWS Lambda to create their first skill: Hypnosis Quit Smoking. As the name suggests, the purpose of this skill is to help users overcome their smoking addiction. Ariel designed the skill to emulate the exercises, interactions, and feel of a typical hypnosis session. To do this, he replaced Alexa's responses with pre-recorded audio clips of Dr. Spiegel instructing patients and asking questions.

Enter Voiceflow

After the app was successfully published, Ariel and Dr. Spiegel began working on their second app: Hypnosis Pain Relief - a skill which helps users reduce pain perception and manage chronic pain.

This time, Ariel was reluctant to use AWS Lambda. Although he knew how to write code, he was determined to find a faster, more efficient way to create for voice.

After hearing about Voiceflow, he decided to give it a try.

He found the drag-and-drop interface fast and intuitive — which significantly improved his workflow. After building Hypnosis Pain Relief using Voiceflow, he even ported over his first skill to make it easier to tweak new iterations down the road.

"Unless you're a hardcore technical programmer, would you build a website from scratch? No Thanks. Same goes for Voice apps. Using Voiceflow is a slam-dunk." - Ariel Poler

It's safe to say, that he hasn't gone back to coding for voice since.

Changing lives

So far, both apps have generated a great deal of positive feedback, with many users saying they've mitigated their pain, curbed their addiction or quit smoking altogether.

In particular, the early results of Hypnosis Quit Smoking have been remarkable. The initial data collected from Ariel and Dr. Spiegel's clinical trial at Stanford Hospital shows that their Alexa skill is almost as effective as in-person sessions with Dr. Spiegel, and significantly better than most alternative treatments. Although the initial research is promising, Ariel has made it clear that hypnosis won't work for everyone.

"Approximately two-thirds of people are hypnotizable. During a state of hypnosis, messages from a therapist can have a profound and immediate effect on people - thus generating a very positive change in their behaviour and experience." - Ariel Poler

Encouraged by the early success of their first two apps, Ariel and Dr. Spiegel hope to develop more hypnosis skills with a focus on other areas such as anxiety and insomnia.

For Ariel, the end-goal is not just about building for voice. It's about harnessing emerging technologies to serve a purpose: helping those who are suffering.

If you would like to know more about Ariel, Dr. Spiegel and the work they are doing together, visit their website at reverihealth.com