Creating Society for Everyone by Using AI Closer to People

I'mbesideyou Inc. provides services that create healthier lives by correctly evaluating mental health conditions with the use of multimodal video AI to analyze facial expressions and voice.

The company aims for "a society where all people respect each other and where every encounter is a learning experience," through AI that is closer to people than people.

We interviewed the company's founder and CEO Kamiya Shozo about the background to the company's creation, the state of its business and the outlook.

Kamiya (center right) poses with his team members.

Challenges of Workplaces That Cannot Cope with Diversity

Kamiya joined NTT Data in 1996 after realizing during his university days that IT would change the world. As the Internet spread throughout society, he created a number of new services and businesses, and subsequently became active in international business, mergers and acquisitions, and alliances.

When he was 35 years old, he had a child. The birth paved his path to entrepreneurship.

"The birth of my child led me to the belief that it is children, not IT, who change the world, and I set up Nei-Kid, a service where children and non-teaching adults could interact," he recalled. In 2018, the service won the Excellence Award of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's Global Entrepreneurship Development Program. Kamiya was also involved in the launch of TimeLeap Academy, offering online entrepreneurship education for elementary and junior high school students.

However, he was facing a challenge: even if diversity in individuality is welcomed in certain situations, people with particular characteristics  continue to suffer because society as a whole tends not to accept people with divergent ways of thinking.

"In the Japanese education system, we are always taught to have the right answers, and there is a tendency to measure everyone by the same standard," he said. "But people have different ideas and thoughts. I wanted to realize a society that understands the diverse ways of individuality and allows people to live their own lives."

I'mbesideyou's mission, vision and values, focusing on the importance of individuality.

Exploring US Market with Indian Talent

I'mbesideyou's strength is its AI technology, which uses video analytics to protect mental health. The company has applied for around 250 international patents and has acquired patents in the US, India, and Japan.

Currently, the company is providing services mainly in the US. It offers a combination of insurance services and AI support for Japanese and Indian immigrants living in California.

One of the AI services is AI Therapist, an AI avatar platform that offers users support. "People with mental health issues tend to be suicidal in the middle of the night. We offer an opportunity for such people to communicate when they cannot talk with friends, family or therapists."

Another service is Therapist Success, which records in-person online therapy sessions to support diagnosis. "It is difficult for a therapist to record in detail during a medical dialogue. The service is highly regarded by therapists because it enables objective analysis of the state of mind and greatly reduces workloads such as reporting," he said.

AI Therapist can analyze video images and capture changes in behavior.

The company is jointly developing a mental health disorder detection engine behind these services with Japanese research institutions, including Hamamatsu University School of Medicine and Keio University. It has also undertaken joint studies with the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in India and Northwell Health in the US.

The company is very popular among Indian students, with 10,228 internship applications from 39 schools in 2023, including the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Management.

"India has a large population and little resistance to IT, so data collection is relatively easy," he said. "Our strategy is to raise the quality of our products through research and development in India, where human resources are plentiful, and to monetize them in the US, the largest market for mental health services."

Tokyo-born Services Widely Used Around the World

Kamiya noted that Japan has the ability to create excellent products and services, but faces challenges in succeeding in overseas markets due to its cultural background and education.

I'mbesideyou will be participated in SusHi Tech Tokyo 2024, an event organized by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to create new sustainable value, and Kamiya pins his hopes on the program.

"In Japan, people who try to stretch and show their individuality tend to be criticized and suppressed," he said. "By participating in SusHi Tech Tokyo 2024, we hope to show the world that start-ups from Tokyo have the potential to make significant progress in the global market."

Kamiya Shozo

Born in 1974. After graduating from Kobe University, he joined NTT Data, where he worked on new businesses and experienced international business and M&A. Founded Nei-Kid, a service that allows children and adults to interact, and TimeLeap Academy, an online entrepreneurship education for elementary and junior high students; founded I'mbesideyou in 2020; SXSW Awards finalist; Entrepreneurship World Cup Top 40. He has gained significant recognition worldwide.

I'mbesideyou Inc.


SusHi Tech Tokyo, short for Sustainable High City Tech Tokyo, is a Tokyo-based concept that aims to create sustainable new value by overcoming global urban challenges through cutting-edge technology, diverse ideas, and digital expertise.

The event will be held from April 27 to May 26.

Interview and written by Mori Hidenobu
Photos: courtesy of I’mbesideyou
Translation by Ito Shingo