Weight Loss App Rise Launches CoachLine, A Personal Assistant That Boosts Human Advice With AI

Rise made its name in the world of health apps as a platform for people to connect with human coaches, to help them tailor their lifestyle and eating choices to lose weight. Now, Rise is adding in a new feature that it hopes will help it scale to a much bigger audience.

Today, the company is taking the wraps off of CoachLine, a new real-time personal assistant that will let anyone — either existing Rise subscribers or simply any consumer via SMS — connect with a team of human advisors working in a machine learning framework to get food advice on the fly.

CoachLine is based around the technology that came to Rise through the acquisition of HealthyOut in August. The advisors are nutrition experts, similar to those who provide coaching services on the main Rise app.

CoachLine has been operating in a closed beta, and today it’s becoming available to all users through the app and SMS service via (402) 965-0252. The Rise folks have made the service FREE for anyone who wants to use it without an account until 9PM Pacific Time today. And TechCrunch users want to try it for a week can sign up and use the promotional code TECHCRUNCH. The one-week offer will be open to the first 500 TechCrunch readers who are interested.

Otherwise, you either get the service as part of your Rise subscription — $48 per month or $120 for three months  — or you can subscribe just for the CoachLine service at $9/month.

What can you ask? Some examples: you might want to know what you can order to eat tonight if you are going to a specific restaurant and want to eat gluten-free (you can name any restaurant you want, wherever you are in the U.S.). Or you can text a list of items in your fridge to get a suggested recipe texted back to you.

Although we have seen a lot of growth (and growing sophistication) in AI-based services that perform automatic actions based on human requests, Rise’s turn to a blended solution doesn’t come in a bubble.

Facebook M, the new personal assistant app from the social network; apps from Flipboard and Apple; and others all combine human interaction with AI engines to improve their responses. The idea here is that the app in question will learn more and more over time to make the AI element increasingly accurate, and the human touch helps make sure the AI is more personal.

For Rise, this will give the company a route to growing the app in two different ways. First, it will mean that the startup could serve more requests to more users without having to enlist as many human advisors. The other is that through the SMS feature, it will give it a way of engaging with casual consumers who in turn potentially could convert into becoming regular paid subscribers over time.

Having real-time advice for how to eat better matches the on-demand, real-time aspect of how many people engage with eating in the modern world. There may be a slow food movement underway, but there is also an ever-growing number of apps that help you order whatever food you might desire to come to you wherever you are.

And that’s before you consider the proliferation of junky food that you can go out and buy the old-fashioned way. Suneel Gupta, the co-founder of Rise, says that the average person makes 35 choices per week on average about what to eat, making the chance of bad choices high for busy people.

But at the same time, there has been a growing awareness of the ill effects of making poor casual eating choices. While the main Rise app may be best for people who are trying to make a concerted commitment to changing their eating habits, CoachLine speaks more to those spontaneous moments.

Gupta also tells me that Rise’s own research pointed to this demand. “We’ve talked to other on-demand answer services like Magic and found that, ‘What should I eat,’ and food in general is a common category for questions.

Check out the interview with Gupta we did at Disrupt below for more.