After winding down operations back in 2018 as part of Mequon-based iDAvatars, now Milwaukee-based tech startup CodeBaby, Inc. has returned with its highly advanced digital avatars – and increased market demand for its product. CodeBaby, at the time based in Colorado, was acquired by Mequon-based Intelligent Digital Avatars Inc. (iDAvatars) in 2016. Following the combination of the two companies, iDAvatars was forced to wind down operations in 2018. The most significant factor in the closure was the loss of Blue Cross Blue Shield as a client, which was bringing in more than $1 million in revenue per year. However, Norrie Daroga, chief executive officer of iDAvatars, bought some of the assets from the company, including the CodeBaby platform and technology. Daroga, along with several investors, has spent the past four years perfecting CodeBaby’s platform. The company has received over $1 million in outside funding to support this process. CodeBaby’s technology allows for the development of intelligent digital avatars that can be used primarily in health care or educational settings. The avatars are customizable and can display compassion, empathy and a sense of humor. The virtual characters use conversational artificial intelligence to interact with users. “You never know when the timing is going to be correct or when things might work out,” said Daroga, now the CEO of CodeBaby. “I still felt that there was going to be value in the company. It was just far more complicated and far more expensive than I ever imagined.” The pandemic has given CodeBaby a boost in customers as people not only learn and seek entertainment virtually, but also increasingly use telehealth services. [caption id="attachment_440275" align="alignleft" width="219"] Norrie Daroga, CEO of CodeBaby.[/caption] “It allows us to create experiences without using high-end developers,” said Daroga. “What we’ve built is the ability to create personas within your avatar. Eventually, we would like to use this to address issues like mental health and areas that are harder to deal with, but where virtual characters have been proven to be more effective.” CodeBaby is also being used in educational settings. One of the company’s customers is using the platform to create avatars that teach students American history. Daroga said there are several other companies using CodeBaby for internal educational programming. He declined to provide specifics on what companies are currently using CodeBaby’s platform. There are five contractors working for the company now. Starting in January, three of them will become full-time employees. CodeBaby has also established an advisory board to help guide it as it broadens its offerings in the remote patient monitoring and digital health fields. Board members include Dr. Alphonso Brown, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School at Cambridge Health Alliance; Dr. Dipankar Chakravarti, eminent scholar, professor of marketing, and the Robert H. Digges professor of entrepreneurial studies at Virginia Tech; and Dr. Jamie Thomson, a clinical psychologist with over 30 years of experience. “CodeBaby is positioned at a sweet spot in the digital health care market that relates to helping consumers (patients) with medical, cognitive and emotional counseling, and supporting face-to-face or remote monitoring,” said Dr. Chakravarti. “I am excited about this opportunity to participate in taking science to market that builds on (and designing to) a research-based understanding of consumer needs.”
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