UCL Research Domains



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

5.30pm, 12 December 2017
Lecture Theatre 1,Basement, Cruciform Building, UCL, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT

A presentation by Dr Nicholas Firth (Postdoctoral Research Associate, Progression of Neurodegenerative Diseases (POND) Group, Centre for Medical Imaging, UCL Computer Science) which will form part of the CSSD launch evening
(this presentation will form part of the Collaborative Social Sciences launch evening)

People with dementia face many challenges to their independence as the condition progresses, often relying increasingly on their caregivers for tasks which had previously been very simple, such as managing appointments and shopping lists. In this presentation, Nicholas Firth will describe his Collaborative Social Science Domain (CSSD) funded project, Echoes Around the Home, which tested how voice-assistant technology, namely the Amazon Echo, may be able to facilitate independence for people with dementia.

Six people with dementia and their family carers were interviewed before and after having the Amazon Echo in their homes for ten weeks. Findings indicate that the Amazon Echo was generally well received and that it facilitated independence for most participants. Further key findings from a thematic analysis of the interview data will also be presented and discussed.

As well as the qualitative data collected via interviews, the Amazon Echo itself collects audio recordings of interactions with it which can be downloaded and processed remotely. This method of data collection has proved to be highly successful with up to 9,000 audio recordings collected from a single household during the ten week trial. These data, along with bespoke speaker recognition models, have been used to generate detailed usage statistics for each individual in the trial.

Along with the results of Echoes Around the Home Dr Frith will also touch on how the multidisciplinary team collaborated successfully on this project.

Project Team

PI: Dr. Nicholas Firth, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Progression of Neurodegenerative Diseases (POND) Group, Centre for Medical Imaging (CMIC), UCL Computer Science, Engineering Sciences, BEAMS, UCL
CI: Professor Mary Patricia Sullivan, Honorary Senior Lecturer, Dementia Research Centre, Institute of Neurology, Brain Sciences, SLMS, UCL

  • Register for Nick Firth's presentation
  • Project outline
  • The project was supported by our Social Science Plus funding scheme.  This call is now open for applications
  • This presentation will form part of the launch evening for UCL's Collaborative Social Science Domain which supports innovative research collaborations between UCL's social scientists (regardless of department) and UCL engineers, scientists and researchers from across the disciplinary spectrum. 

Background to the 2016-17 Social Science Plus Scheme

  • In November 2016 CSSD initiated a funding call to support cross-disciplinary collaboration between social and non-social scientists at post-doctoral level or above.
  • CSSD's Social Science Plus+ scheme offered up to £4,000 to support the development of new research partnerships between social scientists and engineers, scientists and researchers from across the disciplinary spectrum, regardless of department or faculty, for a wide range of cross-disciplinary activities that addressed questions of joint concern and societal relevance between disciplines.
  • We received 13 applications from across UCL: BEAMS = 5; IOE = 1; SLASH = 3; SLMS = 4