Deakin team amongst finalists in globally prestigious Longitude Prize on Dementia

News / Davina Montgomery / July 6, 2023

The MemoryAId project team from WSU’s MARCS Institute and Deakin’s Applied AI Institute, including Dr Celia Harris (third from the right) and Dr Simon Parker (centre back).


The Longitude Prize is a big deal in the world of scientific discovery, with a 300-year history of finding solutions to intractable problems. This year, the UK-based prize is focused on finding solutions to tackle Dementia. A team of Deakin University researchers, working on the ‘MemoryAId‘ project led by Western Sydney University’s MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development, is a finalist in this year’s Prize.

Key points:

  • An Australian technology solution designed to support people living with dementia in their home is a finalist in the highly prestigious Longitude Prize on Dementia.
  • Project lead, Dr Celia Harris from the MARCS Institute, said awarded Discovery Grant will enable prototyping and testing of the MemoryAId home assistive technology.
  • The concept for MemoryAId was developed in consultation with people living with dementia and their carers, with prompts that adapt to changes in cognition, including fluctuating ‘good days’ and ‘bad days’, and for changes in support needs over time.

Based on three years of collaborative research, the ‘MemoryAId’ project team from the University’s MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development, together with research partners at Deakin University’s Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute, have developed a concept for a flexible technology solution that supports daily living activities and meaningful engagement for people living with dementia at home.

Project lead, Dr Celia Harris from Western Sydney University’s MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development, said the prize will enable prototyping and testing of an intuitive, easy to use MemoryAId home assistant technology that sends reminders and prompts for people living with dementia to support quality of daily life and enable living at home for longer.

“The idea of MemoryAId is that it can be delivered flexibly across familiar and existing hardware options already in the home, including large screen devices such as smart TVs, small screen devices such as tablets, a telephone handset attachment, and a small wearable device that can pair with the system to provide alerts,” said Dr Harris.

“This modular concept allows people to select the hardware options that are most suitable for their circumstances and to use what they already have to enable people living with dementia to interact with the technology in ways that they prefer and find most useful.”

The MemoryAId system is designed to need minimal initiation or management once it is programmed and adapts to the individual needs of a person living with dementia as the individual’s dementia progresses.

Research partner Dr Simon Parker, Head of Major Projects at Deakin University’s Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute, said the MemoryAId innovation aims to have transformative impact for people living with dementia by actively enabling and supporting living at home independently for longer.

“Our research to understand the most pressing needs for people with dementia living at home yielded three domains where people wanted support – completing activities of daily living, engaging in meaningful activities, and maintaining social relationships. Our vision for MemoryAId is that it will be a flexible and customisable platform for meeting all these needs and can support any kind of activity that is valued by a particular individual,” he said.

The Longitude Prize on Dementia selects solutions that use the latest advances in technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in combination with user data and testing to provide personalised support for people living with dementia. The semi-finalists compete for additional prize rounds and funding over three years.

The competition itself has also been co-designed with people living with dementia. Judges were advised in their decision making by the prizes Lived Experience Advisory Panel (LEAP).

Trevor Salomon, whose wife Yvonne was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2013, is Chair of the Longitude Prize on Dementia’s Lived Experience Advisory Panel. The group – which includes people living with dementia, carers and former carers – has steered the design of the prize, as well as the judging and assessment processes.

Trevor said: “Before her diagnosis, my wife astonished everyone with her ability to do anything she set her mind to. She was an amazing cook, gardener, and there was nothing she couldn’t make or repair on her sewing machine.

“If we could access technologies that help extend her independence and her enjoyment of those pastimes, it would be so worthwhile. So I’m really impressed by the innovative thinking and creativity of the Discovery Award winners. Advances in AI could lead to new technologies that would be transformative for people like my wife – but they need to be easy to use, intuitive and adapt to the unique needs of each person. Technologies shouldn’t be developed in a bubble; they need to be designed and tested by the people who will ultimately benefit from them.”

The Longitude Prize on Dementia is funded by the UK’s Alzheimer’s Society and Innovate UK and delivered by Challenge Works.

See the Western Sydney University media release HERE