ATOM – A Touch of Memory

Full Title: A Touch of Memory – making the environment and personal objects smarter for people with dementia

Dementia is a syndrome characterized by a deterioration mainly of cognitive abilities. Cognitive abilities which may be affected are memory, attention, problem solving, learning, information processing and language. The syndrome is in most cases irreversible and progressive. People with dementia experience difficulties in everyday tasks such as using everyday objects, communicating with relatives and care takers and basic way finding.

One could think of many ICT-based solutions that could help persons with dementia in everyday tasks. However, because of the problems persons with dementia experience, especially related to memory and learning, developing new ICT applications for this target group is not straightforward. The dementia syndrome may cause individuals to have difficulties with learning new applications for instance.

In order to develop solutions for persons with dementia without requiring them to learn new skills, elements from someone’s personal past may provide useful opportunities. For many individuals with dementia, older memories stay intact and accessible for a longer time than newer memories. Elements from one’s personal past may therefore be used as beacons in everyday life and the everyday environment. Such elements may include photos, objects, sound bites, smells, etc.
Starting from a multi-disciplinary perspective, this project aims to connect the design of ICT applications to elements from the personal past of persons with dementia to improve autonomy and independent living. The goal of this project is to explore how these elements may be used to support persons with dementia with everyday tasks and routines in each phase of the dementia process.
The ATOM project uses the Internet of Things as context and tries to start from a participatory design strategy, including people suffering from dementia, their partners, friends, caregivers or even their local shopkeepers. In this project Social Spaces is responsible for the interface and interaction design. We will heavily rely on participatory and social design. ATOM is an IBBT-funded project and will run from January 2011 untill january 2013.
Partners in this project are Centre for User Research (CUO – University of Leuven), Expertise Centre for Digiral Media (EDM – UHasselt), Wireless Cable research group (WiCa – Ugent), Center for Studies on Media, Information and Telecommunication (SMIT – VUB), GS1, Nascom, Televic & Inham.
Participating in A Touch of Memory for Social Spaces are Andrea Wilkinson & Niels Hendriks.
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