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From Fitbits to chatbots: can digital humans help solve the physical inactivity pandemic?
  1. Nicholas Gilson1,
  2. Edidiong James2,
  3. Stephen Viller3,
  4. Mashhuda Glencross3
  1. 1 School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, The University of Queensland, Saint Lucia, Queensland, Australia
  2. 2 School of Information and Software Engineering, University of Electronic Science and Technology, Chengdu, China
  3. 3 School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, The University of Queensland, Saint Lucia, Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nicholas Gilson, School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, The University of Queensland, Saint Lucia 4072, Australia; n.gilson1{at}

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New and emerging technologies have re-engineered healthcare delivery for a post-COVID-19 world.1 Rapid advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and their integration into existing tech-based, healthcare delivery platforms are set to further transform our ability to digitally reach, meet and treat people for a wide range of chronic disease conditions and risk factors.2 In this editorial, we consider how cutting-edge developments in AI, and specifically digital humans, might help address our collective lack of progress against what has been termed the global physical inactivity pandemic.3

From Fitbits to AI chatbots: technological epochs and physical activity promotion

Mass print, radio and TV media aside, the mainstream adoption of technology to physical activity (PA) promotion can be loosely mapped into three chronological epochs. The first of these began with the uptake of pedometers, SMS messaging and static web-based interventions in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Later, the advent of smartphones and a multitude of health and fitness applications in the late 2000s provided the platform for mass uptake of advanced multifunction PA trackers such as the Jawbone, Fitbit and Garmin in the 2010s. We have arguably entered the beginning of a third epoch in the last few years, with research into PA chatbots and digital humans an exciting reality.4

What are chatbots and digital humans?

Basic chatbots follow branching narratives designed to get users (ie, clients/patients in healthcare) …

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  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it published Online First. The last author's name has been corrected.

  • Contributors All authors were involved in the conception and planning of the editorial. NG was responsible for initial writing and drafting, which was reviewed and edited by all authors, who approved the final version prior to submission.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.