UCL Research Domains


Can the Amazon Echo be used in the home to help those living with dementia?

2016-17 Social Science Plus Pilot Project

Can the Amazon Echo be used in the home to help those living with dementia?

Project Team

Principle Investigator
Dr. Nicholas Firth, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Progression of Neurodegenerative Diseases (POND) Group, Centre for Medical Imaging (CMIC), UCL Computer Science, Engineering Sciences, BEAMS, UCL 

Professor Mary Patricia Sullivan, Honorary Senior Lecturer, Dementia Research Centre, Institute of Neurology, Brain Sciences, SLMS, UCL

Project description
We will trial the use of the Amazon Echo by those living with dementia; aiming to increase independence and wellbeing by providing simplified access to entertainment, diaries and knowledge, whilst also acting as a means for data collection for the monitoring of disease progression.

For this study we will ask participants with Posterior Cortical Atrophy (PCA), a rare form of Alzheimer's disease which primarily affects visual perception, to install and use the Amazon Echo at home. The Echo was identified as a potentially useful tool for people with PCA by our team after conducting interviews with both people living with dementia and their carers:

'… asks for help when she absolutely needs it but hates having to do so. Making technology accessible to people who can't read and can't remember how to manage physical interfaces is critical.'

Interviews carried out before the Echo is installed will give a baseline measurement of independence and use of technology in the home, and a similar interview will provide details of how practices have changed.

Using the Echo's interaction recordings, we will use cross-disciplinary analysis techniques to describe the content and accuracy of interactions with the Echo. We hope these analyses will enable us measure subtle changes in memory and verbal skills, over a prolonged continuous time period within a naturalistic setting. We hope Echo will provide a cheap method of longitudinal data collection to measure disease progression which minimises both intrusiveness and demand on those living with dementia.

Presentation: 12 December 2017