Storytelling app aims to bring memories back to life for dementia sufferers

Researchers hope the AI companion will aid memory recollection, boost confidence and combat depression.

Heriot-Watt University to develop app to support Alzheimer’s patients iStock

Researchers are developing a pioneering, artificial intelligence-based app which will help bring memories back to life in those living with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

The £450,000 Amper project, or “Agent-based Memory Prosthesis to Encourage Reminiscing”, stems from an idea of memory modelling researcher Mei Yii Lim at the National Robotarium in Edinburgh, with researchers there hoping the AI companion will aid memory recollection, boost confidence and combat depression in disease sufferers.

Professor Ruth Aylett, who is leading the research, said artificial intelligence “has the potential to play a pivotal role in improving the lives of people living with cognitive diseases”.

“One of the most difficult aspects of living with dementia can be changes in behaviour caused by confusion or distress,” she said.

“We know that people can experience very different symptoms that require a range of support responses.

“Current intervention platforms used to aid memory recollection often take a one-size-fits-all approach that isn’t always suitable to an individual’s unique needs.”

People with Alzheimer’s still retain pockets of long-term memory, even as the disease progresses, as newer memories are the ones which are lost first.

At the moment, most current rehabilitative care methods focus on physical aids and repetitive reminding techniques, but the new tablet computer-based Amper project will use artificial intelligence to focus on personalised storytelling to help bring a patient’s memories back to the surface.

Prof Aylett said: “Through projects like Amper, we’re able to highlight the ways AI and robotics can both help and improve life for people now and in the future.

“The research team at the National Robotarium plans to separately investigate the use of a desktop robot to determine if there are benefits to be gained by having a 3D representation of a character.”

Working in partnership with the University of Strathclyde, the team at Heriot-Watt University were awarded the project funding by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation.

Researchers said the project’s long-term vision is to help demonstrate how AI companions can become more widely used and integrated into domestic, educational, health and assistive-needs settings.

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