The Accidental Avatar

by Norrie Daroga
A few years ago, I shared my experience as a not-so-adept driver of a toboggan on Double-Dip Hill in Northern Wisconsin. Somehow a maple tree got the better of the incident and I shattered my left shoulder and right leg. That was 18 years and a dozen surgeries ago … and this blog is about journey of overcoming pain and prescription drugs that led me to my purpose today.

It’s estimated that over 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. The cause of this chronic pain is often not attributed to a physical cause, yet the traditional methods of providing relief are injections, elective surgeries and prescription drugs (opioids). An increasing number of Americans are turning to non-traditional therapies, which focus on psychogenic causes of pain.

Brian Resnick recently authored an excellent article on chronic pain (published on in which he states: “Cognitive behavioral therapy, meanwhile, shows meaningful benefits on chronic pain — both for psychogenic pain, and for pain with a physical cause — according to systematic reviews of the research. There’s also promising research around mindfulness-based stress reduction and therapies inspired by it.”

As the founder of a company that develops virtual characters with empathy (and a bit of personality) I’m thrilled to announce the launch of our most recent character, Nyah, in an app fondly known as our (pain) killer app. She joins our first avatar, Sophie, designed for chronic disease management, who made her debut at the 2016 IBM InterConnect Conference in Las Vegas. We believe the second episode of this journey will be even more intriguing than the first!

Nyah provides an experience that encourages a client to describe their pain symptoms, identify social and lifestyle behaviors that may relate to those symptoms, and communicate their desired outcomes to a pain management practitioner before the first visit. The practitioner reviews the experience, which is logged into the client’s electronic records, and the visit becomes far more meaningful for the client and the practitioner. The client continues to engage with the app periodically, and can monitor progress, communicate adverse changes and get the most benefit possible from seeing the practitioner. Interestingly enough, the practitioner may be a psychologist, a chiropractor, a pain management clinic or a shaman; Nyah’s focus is on the client and not the approach used by the practitioner.

Nyah is an east African name which translates into “purpose” and we can’t wait for her debut. Stay tuned!