Today there are almost 700 million elderly people in the world. About 15 % of people of 60 years and over suffer from psychogenic disorders. Alzheimer’s disease is one of them.
Only in Russia 1, 5 million people suffer from dementia. At least 44 million people in the world live with dementia, making it a global problem to be taken care of.
Alzheimer’s disease is a widely spread type of dementia, a condition, at which the brain does not function properly. Alzheimer’s disease causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. At an early stage symptoms of dementia can be minimal but as the disease has a growing impact on the brain, the symptoms worsen. The rate of the disease progress is individual, but the average life expectancy after diagnosing is eight years.
Unfortunately, modern therapy methods only subdue the symptoms and are unable to stop or slow the development of the disease.
Today, there is no remedy for Alzheimer’s disease.
All this let us think that the problem of Alzheimer’s disease is huge.
Since Endurance is not a medical company and cannot develop therapeutic agents, however, we can develop a robot-companion for senior people and patients with Alzheimer’s disease, a device, which will help them socialize.
Perhaps, many of you will agree with me that with the increase of years people start experiencing difficulties in communication, especially when they have an axe to grind with each other. We feel that many senior people lack communication, especially, with young inquiring minds. The lack of communication causes sullen, depressive mood. Sullenness inevitably casts a shadow on one’s physical state and therefore on health.
This problem, as we see it, requires attention on the part of their relatives, as well, as on the part of aged care services.
We believe that a well-structured dialogue with an elderly person will help him think more actively. In other words, asking an elderly interlocutor questions about his/her life in the form of a live dialogue, it is possible to activate his/her intellectual processes, making him/her remember, think, and experience emotions. All this will have a positive effect not only on the mood of the senior interlocutor, but also on his/her physical and mental condition.
That is why Endurance launches an open source project on development of a robot-companion (chatbot) for senior people and patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
The primary function of the chatbot is to be a virtual companion. To speak with senior people on general topics: about the weather, nature, hobbies, movies, music, news, etc.
We believe that this kind of communication will essentially complement real communication, which, as we know, many of us lack.
Life in networks has become already real for younger generation. People spend in messengers socializing over 1, 5 hour a day. For senior people (65+) this is rather hard.
At the same time, a chatbot is able to keep the conversation alive in the same way as a real person: you can ask it questions, listen to its answers.
We have already implemented a Russian basic version of the robot-companion. Its English basic version will be presented in March, 2017.
The chatbot asks questions, reacts to the answers, is able to speak on various topics, and share interesting news and facts from Google. One of our current tasks is development of a more general algorithm of the robot reaction to a question or talking point of an interlocutor. The chatbot is also able to partially keep the conversation contest, that is, to follow the dialogue history to make it coherent.
Prophylaxis and Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease
We assume that in early stages of dementia, the chatbot will be able to fix deviations from normal reactions to these or those assertions or questions of the chatbot.
We plan to create a body of “diagnostic” questions, on the basis of which an expert will be able to diagnose deviations in the responses of an elderly companion.
This body should include questions related to the short-term memory, for example, whether the person remembers, what he talked about yesterday, whether he/she is able to perform simple mathematical calculations, give a description or definition of certain concepts, etc. Such questions, in our opinion, will help recognize possible deviations in early stages.
Since the chatbot is a cloud solution, relatives, friends or a doctor will be able to analyze the logs(communication history) of an elderly person with the chatbot. In this sense, an early, though very approximate, diagnosis will attract attention of the family to the problem at an early stage of their relative’s disease.
I often play piano concerts in homes for elderly people and assisted living facilities in Europe and the USA, and I know firsthand how difficult it is to contact and socialize with people even with light forms of dementia, but it does not mean you should not contact them. On the contrary! Socializing will help delay the disease progression.
The Endurace chatbot should pass clinical trials before we put it into service.
Today Endurance in cooperation with five universities of the USA launches the project development. For more details visit our site here.
We invite universities and individual researchers for cooperation. If you like our project and would like to support us, write about it to [email protected] or call +7 916 225 4302
We believe that a chatbot for senior people and patients with Alzheimer’s disease is a long-wanted and helpful solution, which will enable to improve their quality of life, broaden their horizons, and give them the joy of communication and socializing.
Written by George Fomitchev, founder of EnduranceRobots.com