elderly man using apple smartphone

A virtual coach for smart aging

The intel­li­gent assi­stant is inten­ded to sup­port seni­or citi­zens to stay acti­ve in their own living envi­ron­ment. Coope­ra­ti­on in the Euro­pean-Japa­ne­se light­house pro­ject e‑VITA.

Tog­e­ther with 11 Euro­pean and 11 Japa­ne­se part­ners, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Sie­gen is deve­lo­ping a vir­tu­al assi­stant for smart aging in your own four walls. The e‑VITA pro­ject crea­tes an intel­li­gent assi­stant that older peop­le can use indi­vi­du­al­ly at home — tailo­red to their own living envi­ron­ment and per­so­nal wis­hes and ide­as. “Our goal is to empower older peop­le to remain inde­pen­dent and acti­ve, to mana­ge their dai­ly acti­vi­ties and to impro­ve their well-being,” exp­lains Pro­fes­sor Dr. Marc Has­sen­zahl, Dean of Facul­ty III at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Sie­gen. The focus of the deve­lo­p­ment of the vir­tu­al coach lies in the are­as of mobi­li­ty, social inter­ac­tion, leisu­re time, cogni­ti­on, phy­si­cal acti­vi­ty, mood and spirituality.

It will be the task of the Sie­gen rese­ar­chers to design user-friend­ly lan­guage inter­ac­tion and the design of the assi­stant in so-cal­led prac­ti­ce labo­ra­to­ries tog­e­ther with the users — i.e. to crea­te a trust­worthy assi­stant that is spe­ci­fi­cal­ly gea­red towards the older tar­get group. To this end, the uni­ver­si­ty would like to coope­ra­te with the muni­ci­pa­li­ties and social asso­cia­ti­ons in Sie­gen-Witt­gen­stein, among other things, so that the sys­tem can also be lin­ked to their social ser­vices and acti­vi­ties. The coach is con­trol­led through natu­ral lan­guage inter­ac­tion. This has two goals: On the one hand, it enab­les the per­son and the coach to con­ver­se and under­stand each other bet­ter. On the other hand, the coach should crea­te trust and at the same time pro­vi­de infor­ma­ti­on in accordance with data pro­tec­tion regu­la­ti­ons through the dis­cus­sions. In addi­ti­on, ques­ti­on-ans­wer func­tions from know­ledge graphs such as Wiki­pe­dia and data sets from various sen­sors are used. For examp­le, the sys­tem eva­lua­tes the data from smart house­hold app­li­an­ces and, if necessa­ry, can also con­nect health-rela­ted devices such as blood pres­su­re moni­tors or fit­ness arm­bands. Based on all this infor­ma­ti­on, the coach should give per­so­na­li­zed recom­men­da­ti­ons for the elder­ly in the dif­fe­rent lan­guages of the par­ti­ci­pa­ting coun­tries. For examp­le, the coach could remind them to exer­cise or walk regu­lar­ly, read from the Bible, or recom­mend a cul­tu­ral event — as nee­ded. It could also help to make it easier to chat with fami­ly or friends, to eat healt­hi­er or to net­work with the com­mu­nities and in the neighborhoods.

Which func­tions and tasks the coach is sup­po­sed to take on and which shape it should take on is deter­mi­ned in the cour­se of the pro­ject tog­e­ther with the elder­ly. “It is cru­cial for the pro­ject that the users accept the tech­no­lo­gies. We can only achie­ve this if we make the users them­sel­ves the focus of design and deve­lo­p­ment, ”says Eli­sa Irlan­dese, pro­ject offi­cer for the Euro­pean Com­mis­si­on. Dr. Rai­ner Wie­ching agrees. He is the over­all pro­ject mana­ger of e‑VITA and an expert in acti­ve aging, healt­hy living and social robotics.

Should the vir­tu­al coach stay dis­creet­ly in the back­ground or always be pre­sent? Which func­tions are use­ful, which are dis­rup­ti­ve or even a hin­dran­ce? And what about data pro­tec­tion — after all, not ever­yo­ne wants to divul­ge all of their data. “We design for real life and for real peop­le, not for the labo­ra­to­ry,” empha­si­zes Dr. Mat­thi­as Lasch­ke. “The tech­no­lo­gies that we deve­lop in the pro­ject should not only be prac­ti­cal and prag­ma­tic, but also meet indi­vi­du­al needs — for examp­le secu­ri­ty and auto­no­my — and be fun,” he explains.

The sci­en­tists later pro­vi­de the older users with a sup­port sys­tem in order to learn and use the vir­tu­al coa­ching sys­tem and to mana­ge their data inde­pendent­ly. The coach will be tes­ted and eva­lua­ted in Fran­ce, Ger­ma­ny, Ita­ly and Japan. In the medi­um term, it should be pos­si­ble to use the offer throughout Euro­pe and Japan, which is sup­por­ted by an inter­na­tio­nal app­li­ca­ti­on stu­dy and, if necessa­ry, enab­les fur­ther finan­cing rounds and stu­dies. “South West­pha­lia is a rural regi­on with a fal­ling num­ber of gene­ral prac­ti­tio­ners and an incre­a­sing num­ber of elder­ly peop­le. This demo­gra­phic and struc­tu­ral deve­lo­p­ment app­lies to many rural regi­ons in the EU and also in Japan ”, exp­lains Prof. Dr. Vol­ker Wulf the coope­ra­ti­on and the bene­fits of the coach. Wulf is pro­rec­tor for digi­tal and regio­nal affairs and pro­fes­sor for busi­ness infor­ma­tics and new media at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Siegen.

Pro­ject part­ners in Ger­ma­ny inclu­de the Fraun­ho­fer Insti­tu­te IAIS, the Dio­ce­san Cari­tas Asso­cia­ti­on of the Arch­dio­ce­se of Colo­gne, as well as other part­ners from Euro­pe, inclu­ding the public hos­pi­tal asso­cia­ti­on of Paris, the Ita­li­an Natio­nal Insti­tu­te for Aging Rese­arch and the AGE Plat­form Euro­pe, which are respon­si­ble for the issu­es across Euro­pe the aging socie­ty sets in. Pro­ject part­ners in Japan inclu­de TOHOKU Uni­ver­si­ty and the Natio­nal Insti­tu­te for Geron­to­lo­gy and Ger­iatrics (NCGG) and the Natio­nal Insti­tu­te for Advan­ced Indus­tri­al Sci­ence and Tech­no­lo­gy (AIST). The Uni­ver­si­ty of Sie­gen acts as the EU coor­di­na­tor for the pro­ject. A first online con­fe­rence with all part­ners as well as repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of the EU Com­mis­si­on and the Japa­ne­se Minis­try of Sci­ence took place at the start of the rese­arch in Janu­a­ry. The three-year pro­ject is finan­ced by the EU frame­work pro­gram for rese­arch and inno­va­ti­on Hori­zon 2020 and by public fun­ding from Japan with a total of four mil­li­on euros in the EU plus four mil­li­on euros in Japan. The Uni­ver­si­ty of Sie­gen will recei­ve around 750,000 euros from this.

Source: https://www.uni-siegen.de/start/news/oeffentlichkeit/929658.html

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