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An Understanding Virtual Coach for People with Amnesia

People suffering from slowly progressing forms of amnesia such as dementia require increasing support from their relatives as well as from care professionals. Partners, children and friends of a person are often the first to notice the subtle changes in his/her cognitive capabilities, mostly several years before the formal diagnosis of e.g. mild cognitive impairment or dementia will be made.

There are many ways in which people with such forms of amnesia can be supported by relatives or care professionals. However the burden on these relatives, who have a life of their own, can be high and long lasting. Furthermore, in cases where patients have no partner and only distant relatives, they are fully dependent on caregivers that are only intermittently available.

Therefore we propose to develop an application called “an understanding virtual coach for people with amnesia”. This understanding virtual coach will take the form of a 'conversational agent' that can engage in social interaction (talking, listening, gesturing) with the patient on the basis of artificial intelligence. The user interface is conceived as a virtual human on a screen. Unique within this proposal is that this coach will maintain a model of the mental state (wishes, needs, emotions) of the patient, based on an automatic analysis of the conversations in combination with various sensory data ('smart sensing'). The expectation is that the self-reliance and longer qualitative participation in society of people suffering from memory loss will improve. The virtual coach will also contribute to the problem of an increasing future shortage of healthcare personnel and will guarantee the accessibility of healthcare in the own living environment.

The understanding virtual coach software will be developed using an agile software development methodology and wil start by identifying real use cases. End users will have a strong involvement in this project from the start and in the definition of these use cases. The system will be evaluated in field labs under real-life circumstances.

More information can also be found here.

Research coordinator RU: Tibor Bosse

Research team RU: Tibor Bosse, Roel Boumans, Serge Thill, Yana van de Sande

Project partners: Technology Investment Group, Avoord, Zonnehuisgroep Amstelland

Funding: ZonMw