HAIFA, ISRAEL - 18 Nov 2008: IBM (NYSE: IBM) is announcing a collaborative effort with European Union partners to develop new technology that will help support active aging and prevent cognitive decline in the elderly population.
Based on intelligent audio and visual processing and reasoning, the "HERMES Cognitive Care for Active Aging" project will develop a combination of home-based and mobile device-based solutions to help older people combat the natural reduction in cognitive capabilities. The three-year project includes a special focus on developing an interface that will be comfortable for technology-averse users.
As people approach middle age, their cognitive abilities begin to decline, and forgetfulness permeates nearly every aspect of daily life. This problem is especially acute among the aging, a generation where not everyone is comfortable with new hi-tech 'brainboosting' gadgets and may even shy away altogether from any new technology devices.
"HERMES is helping realize the vision of lengthening the stage of independent living and helping aging populations remain active," explained Prof. Manfred Tscheligi, Director of CURE (Center for Usability Research & Engineering) and coordinator of the HERMES project. "Developing innovative yet non-intimidating technology to address the needs of this valuable population is a challenge that this community of researchers is eager to embrace."
The HERMES project brings together experts ranging from gerontology and speech processing, to hardware integration and user-centered design to achieve the common goal of cognitively supporting older people. The first stage, a joint effort of the user partners CURE in Austria and INGEMA in Spain, will work on better understanding the memory needs of the elderly through a range of user-centered methods. The technology partners in the consortium, including the IBM Research Lab in Haifa (Israel), Athens Information Technology (Greece), Bradford University (UK) and TXT e-Solutions (Italy) will work to develop the sensory and perceptual technologies.
The HERMES "home of the future" prototype will be equipped with microphones and video cameras to record conversations and experiences at the user's discretion. The elderly will be equipped with a mobile device that records conversations, experiences, location coordinates, dates and times outside the home, for example at the doctor's office, the bank, or with acquaintances. All the information will be stored, processed and analyzed to help augment the person's memory.
"With HERMES, our research into multimedia technologies is taking a real leap forward in transforming how people will go about their daily lives," noted Ron Hoory, manager of speech technologies at the IBM Haifa Research Lab. "The project will enable us to target more complex dynamic environments that demand new innovative approaches. These new approaches can work equally well for business environments, to help analyze telephone calls in a call center, broadcast news and video, or any scenario where speech is of essence."
The project's ultimate goal is to build a prototype system that will offer three main services:
As part of the project, experts at the IBM Research Lab in Haifa, Israel are contributing technologies and research for speech transcription (Speech to Text), speaker recognition, voice-based emotion detection, and text-to-speech synthesis.
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