Western Sydney University researchers announced as semi-finalists in globally prestigious Longitude Prize on Dementia

A team of researchers led by Western Sydney University has been selected as semi-finalists and awarded a Discovery Award grant worth over $145,000 AUD to develop a new assistive technology solution for dementia patients as part of the UK-based Longitude Prize on Dementia.

Based on three years of collaborative research, the ‘MemoryAId’ project team from the University’s MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development, together with research partners at Deakin University’s Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute, have developed a concept for a flexible technology solution that supports daily living activities and meaningful engagement for people living with dementia at home.

Project lead, Dr Celia Harris from Western Sydney University’s MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development, said the prize will enable prototyping and testing of an intuitive, easy to use MemoryAId home assistant technology that sends reminders and prompts for people living with dementia to support quality of daily life and enable living at home for longer.

“The idea of MemoryAId is that it can be delivered flexibly across familiar and existing hardware options already in the home, including large screen devices such as smart TVs, small screen devices such as tablets, a telephone handset attachment, and a small wearable device that can pair with the system to provide alerts,” said Dr Harris.

“This modular concept allows people to select the hardware options that are most suitable for their circumstances and to use what they already have to enable people living with dementia to interact with the technology in ways that they prefer and find most useful.”

The MemoryAId system is designed to need minimal initiation or management once it is programmed and adapts to the individual needs of a person living with dementia as the individual’s dementia progresses.

Dr Harris said consultation with people living with dementia as well as their carers and families had revealed the value of being able to precisely tailor prompts for the individual needs of the user, highlighting that good technological solutions need to adjust prompts for changes in cognition, including fluctuating ‘good days’ and ‘bad days’, and for changes in support needs over time.

“Adjustments to the nature of prompts and activities offered can be made over time, to accommodate changes in preferences and abilities. Our concept involves a ‘human-in-the-loop’ approach to smart technology, to make it as tailored, modifiable, and user-friendly as possible.”

Research partner Dr Simon Parker, Head of Major Projects at Deakin University’s Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute, said the MemoryAId innovation aims to have transformative impact for people living with dementia by actively enabling and supporting living at home independently for longer.

“Our research to understand the most pressing needs for people with dementia living at home yielded three domains where people wanted support - completing activities of daily living, engaging in meaningful activities, and maintaining social relationships. Our vision for MemoryAId is that it will be a flexible and customisable platform for meeting all these needs and can support any kind of activity that is valued by a particular individual,” he said.

The Longitude Prize on Dementia (opens in a new window) selects solutions that use the latest advances in technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in combination with user data and testing to provide personalised support for people living with dementia. The semi-finalists compete for additional prize rounds and funding over three years.

The Longitude Prize approach is based on a 300-year history of funding international scientific discovery and finding solutions to intractable problems. The Longitude Prize on Dementia is funded by the UK’s Alzheimer’s Society and Innovate UK and delivered by Challenge Works.


21 June 2023

Danielle Aiken, Media Officer