Technology for exploring ‘self’ in dementia care : CIRCA and Robots

By | October 28, 2014

In my investigation of software tools for people with dementia, a pioneering product is the desk top digital reminiscence tool for people with dementia, CIRCA. Whilst in Glasgow for the 2014 Alzheimer’s Europe Conference  (this link takes you to the assistive technology abstracts), I had the pleasure to meet with collaborators on the project, Professor Arlene Astell (University of Sheffield/Toronto), and Dr Norman Alm (University of  Dundee). Arlene was on the psychology side, Norman on the software side. Design was by Gary Gowans. Maggie Ellis, Richard Dye, Jim Campbell and Phillip Vaughan, all research assistants at the time, completed the team. Arlene and Norman were most generous with their time, explaining the history behind this rich media software product. In the audio grab, below, Norman Alm recollects how the team evaluated CIRCA in 2009 and reveals some surprising findings. Dr Tanya Petrovich from Alzheimer’s Australia Vic does some prompting.

Additionally, as Norman was discussing his interest in robotics for dementia care, and his belief in robotics for the future, I dug up some of snaps taken at the Ishiguro Lab at the University of Osaka in 2013 to show him. In the snap (below) roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro stands with his ‘Geminoid’, a robot that pushes the limits of the uncanny valley.


Ishiguro with his Geminoid, ‘exploring what it is to be human’. (Note: those are real humans on either side!)


The Telenoid

The Ishiguro Telenoid; used for aged care companionship

Pepper, from the

Pepper, the “happy robot”, designed by French developer Bruno Maisonner; available in 2015 for around $2000 US


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