National Robotarium creates an AI system to help people with dementia
A new artificial intelligence (AI) companion to help people with dementia has been developed at National Robotarium.
The AMPER (Agent-based Memory Prothesis to Encourage Reminiscing) project helps with recollection, boosts confidence and combats depression in people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
The idea was launched by Dr. Mei Yii Lim, co-investigator of the project and an experienced researcher in memory modeling.
Memory loss in people with Alzheimer’s disease occurs in reverse chronological order, with pockets of long-term memory remaining accessible even as the disease progresses.
While most current rehabilitation care methods focus on physical aids and repetitive reminder techniques, AMPER’s AI-powered user-centered approach will focus on personalized storytelling to help make bring to the surface the memories of a patient with dementia.
Dr. Lim explains, “AMPER will explore the potential of AI to help access an individual’s personal memories residing in still viable regions of the brain by creating natural and relatable stories. These will be tailored to their unique life experiences, age, social background and changing needs to encourage memories.
Difficulty communicating with others and a loss of confidence are commonly experienced by people with dementia and can often lead to withdrawal or depression.
By using AI to aid memory, National Robotarium researchers hope that a sense of value, importance and belonging can be restored in people with dementia and quality of life will be improved.
The long-term vision of the project is to help demonstrate how AI companions can be more widely used and integrated into home, education, healthcare and support environments.
Working in partnership with the University of Strathclyde, the Heriot-Watt University team co-organizing the National Robotarium has received £450,000 in funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
Project partners include the charity Sporting Memories, which provides reminiscence therapy for people with dementia through video footage in day care centres, the NHS Scotland Neuroprogressive and Dementia Network and the Latin American Network for Dementia Research.
Professor Ruth Aylett of the National Robotarium is leading the research. She said: “One of the most challenging aspects of living with dementia can be the changes in behavior caused by confusion or distress.
“We know people can experience very different symptoms that require a range of supportive responses. Current intervention platforms used to facilitate memory recall often take a unique approach that is not always tailored to an individual’s unique needs.
“AI technology has the potential to play a pivotal role in improving the lives of people with dementia. Our ambition is to develop an AI-based companion that offers patients and their caregivers a flexible solution to help give an individual a lasting sense of self-esteem, social acceptance and independence.
“Through projects like AMPER, we are able to highlight the many ways that AI and robotics can both help and improve people’s lives now and in the future. At the National Robotarium, we work on research that will benefit people in adult care facilities as well as across a wide range of other sectors that will make life easier, safer and more supported for people.
Once developed, the AI technology will be accessible through a tablet-based interface to make it more widely available and at a lower cost. The National Robotarium research team plans to separately study the use of a desktop robot to determine if there are any benefits to be gained from a 3D representation of a character.
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