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AI-based radio broadcasts could help people living with dementia

Image credit: Maksym Yemelyanov | Dreamstime.com

A £2.7m project plans to use artificial intelligence (AI) to adapt and personalise live radio, with the aim of transforming life for people living alone with dementia.

The project, Radio Me, will address challenges for people with dementia, such as agitation and failing to take medication correctly.

As a result, it is hoped that the quality of life will improve through this radio project, and people will be able to remain living independently at home for longer.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)-funded project will capitalise on the popularity of radio among the age group most likely to be living with dementia, developing a way to seamlessly ‘remix’ live digital broadcast so that listeners will receive personalised reminders, information and music.

Led by researchers from the University of Plymouth, collaborating with the Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) among other institutes, the project will be trialled for 50 months among people living with dementia in Cambridgeshire and Sussex.

Jörg Fachner, professor of music, health and the brain at ARU, said: “Our role is to investigate precisely how people with dementia can benefit from this interactive radio experience.

“Music therapists at ARU and partner organisations will use biomarker responses to fine-tune playlists in order to deliver emotional and cognitive stimulation, and evaluate exactly how interactive music interventions, using AI, can benefit people with dementia in their own homes and in assisted living environments.”

The team at the University of Plymouth plan to develop a commercial bio-bracelet, which will be used to measure physical signs such as heart rate, as well as feature wireless speakers and an internet connection.

Furthermore, the Radio Me output will be produced in users’ homes through AI software which is also being developed by the University of Plymouth. An electronic diary completed by users and their carers will also be a key element of the system.

Professor Eduardo Miranda, from the University of Plymouth, added: “Radio Me builds on research carried out as part of our previous EPSRC-funded project into a brain-computer music interface, as well as our work on artificial intelligence, music influencing emotion, and the university’s long-running involvement in shaping national policy on dementia.

“Helping people with dementia to stay in their homes for as long as possible, even if they live alone, is a key aim of the project,” Miranda added.

“Technology exists to display reminders about vital daily tasks, but research has shown older adults find modern electronic devices difficult to use, and people with dementia have particular problems.”

A user switching on the radio in the morning may find their usual local station. However, at certain points, a DJ-like voice could override the radio presenter and remind the listener to have a drink or take medication.

Through the readings on the bio-bracelet, Radio Me could detect whether or not the listener is becoming agitated. In this event, the software could then override the scheduled song choice and select a song from the user’s personal library, known to be likely to calm them down.

According to the researchers, the calming material being played through the system could continue to be played until Radio Me detects the user is no longer agitated.

As well as reminding the person to drink or take their medication, the system could also feature a memory café. This would be achieved through what Dr Alexis Kirke from the University of Plymouth described as a “humanistic speech synthesiser”.

The project led by the University of Plymouth, as well as the Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy Research at Anglia Ruskin University, is a partnership between Plymouth’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research, the Centre for Dementia Studies at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, the Glasgow Interactive Systems group at the University of Glasgow.

Earlier in May 2019, researchers from the University of Kent conducted a study which found that virtual reality (VR) could help people suffering from dementia recall past memories and tackle behavioural issues.

Furthermore, in April 2019, a £20m research centre was set up to develop technologies that can be used to improve the care of dementia patients in the UK.

 

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