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

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Researchers are developing a pioneering artificial intelligence-based app that will help revive memories for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

The £450,000 Amper project, or ‘Agent-based memory prosthesis to encourage memory’, stems from an idea by memory modeling researcher Mei Yii Lim at the National Robotarium in Edinburgh, with researchers hoping the AI companion will aid memory, boost confidence and fight depression in 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 with dementia”.

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

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

“Current intervention platforms used to aid in recall often take a unique approach that is not always tailored to an individual’s unique needs.”

People with Alzheimer’s disease still retain pockets of long-term memory, even as the disease progresses, because the most recent memories are those that are lost first.

Currently, most current rehabilitation care methods focus on physical aids and repetitive reminder techniques, but Amper’s new tablet-based project will use artificial intelligence to focus on personalized storytelling to to help bring a patient’s memories to the surface.

Professor Aylett said: “Through projects like Amper, we are able to highlight how AI and robotics can both help and improve people’s lives now and in the future. .

“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.”

Working in partnership with the University of Strathclyde, the Heriot-Watt University team secured funding for the project from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation.

The researchers said 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.


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