Home » Dementia » People with dementia can live well each day with smart assistive technology

Professor Leontios Hadjileontiadis

Chair, Biomedical Engineering Department, Khalifa University

Professor Mohamed Seghier

Director, University’s Healthcare Engineering Innovation Center, Khalifa University

People with dementia could be supported to live more independently for longer with their condition, with the help of an innovative pair of smart glasses.

A team from Khalifa University of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi has designed unique intelligent modular adaptive glasses with high interoperability and comfort (iMAGIC) for people with dementia. They have sensors, a recognition system for familiar faces and objects, a fall detection system and alerts and reminder functions. They can also monitor vital signs including heart rate, body temperature and sleep patterns. 

Hands-free solution for dementia 

iMAGIC was recently named a semi-finalist Discovery Award winner for the coveted Longitude Prize on Dementia. Project leader Professor Mohamed Seghier, Director of the university’s Healthcare Engineering Innovation Centre, says: “People living with dementia can struggle with their environment, so we wanted to create something familiar and hands-free to help them.”

The glasses combine different modules and functionalities with a camera for navigation. It can recognise faces and objects and has sensors that can detect falls and alert caregivers or families. “The glasses can be adapted, depending on the stage of dementia an individual is at,” he adds. “Someone with early signs may be able to live independently compared to someone at a higher stage of dementia where more support is needed.” 

Benefits of the smart glasses 

Professor Leontios Hadjileontiadis, Chair of the university’s Biomedical Engineering Department, explains that the smart glasses also work when the user is not wearing them. “Even when a person is sleeping, the glasses are awake and provide information about temperature, weather, pollution and aspects that relate to the environment someone is living in,” he explains. 

The glasses use algorithms to recognise the faces of family members and friends, as well as objects in the user’s environment. It relays that information in a display before their eyes or orally via a headset. They also have a reminder system, such as when to take medication or contact a caregiver. He adds that the glasses demand very little from the user but provide a lot of benefits. 

The glasses use algorithms to recognise the
faces of family members and friends, as
well as objects in the user’s environment.

Helping people with dementia socially 

Physiological data, collected via sensors around the ear, can be directed to physicians and can identify possible falls. The glasses are a familiar item that a dementia patient could wear naturally. Yet, it reminds wearers of who they are with and where they are while providing important social context.

“It means people with dementia are not isolated but can communicate with people because they use this technology to assist them in their social expression. So, socially and physically, it helps them to keep their quality of life,” says Hadjileontiadis. 

Next stage of technology 

The Longitude Prize, funded by the Alzheimer’s Society and UK innovation agency Innovate UK, aims to encourage the development of technologies that can help people with dementia retain their independence. 

The Discovery Award has given the Khalifa University team an £80,000 grant to design and develop their solution and submit the technology to the next stage of the prize in 2024. 

Going forward, the prototype smart glasses will be tested on people living with dementia in the UAE; and their feedback will be incorporated into the design. 

Retaining independence for longer 

The university team — which also includes Dr Aamna AlShehhi, Dr Naoufel Werghi, Dr Hamdan Hamdan and Rayyah Alkhanjari — wants to work with external companies and investors to further develop the smart glasses. 

With an estimated 46.8 million people living with dementia worldwide, and this number predicted to double every 20 years, Seghier says it is crucial to find solutions that can help them live independently for longer. “Our main motivation was to develop a hands-free assistive device to make a difference in the lives of people with dementia. On a more personal note, some team members have relatives who are already living with dementia, and this was another driver to start this project.” 

Next article