An app that repairs “broken” speech, high-tech glasses that can help those with dementia recognise others, and a “Yellow Brick Road” map to help people navigate their community are just three of the solutions that have made it to the semi-finals of the £4m Longitude Prize on Dementia.
A total of £1.9m has today been awarded to 24 pioneering teams of developers, researchers and innovators from across the globe in the international challenge competition funded by Alzheimer’s Society and Innovate UK, and designed and delivered by Challenge Works.
Discovery Awards of £80k have been awarded to teams in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, UAE, Colombia, Portugal and the Isle of Man to develop new technologies to improve the lives of people living with dementia. The teams will now work alongside people living with dementia and their carers to ensure technologies are intuitive, easy-to-use and able to adapt to their changing needs.
• An augmented reality map to prevent people getting lost or confused – The Dorothy Community from Care City (UK) is a digital “Yellow Brick Road” map that uses augmented reality to provide virtual directions, visualised pathways and simple instructions for people living with dementia to independently navigate their local community.
• High-tech specs for facial recognition – iMAGIC smart glasses are being developed by Khalifa University (UAE) to help people recognise familiar faces, provide reminders and alerts, zoom in and out to facilitate navigation, make phone calls to loved ones and monitor vital signs. The glasses will also eventually be able to help identify objects that sport a QR code (a type of barcode that can be scanned and interpreted by computer software).
• A virtual speech assistant app to fill in missing words – the interactive AI software from Amicus Brain Innovations (USA) will use speech and language processing to listen to “broken speech” – a common challenge as dementia advances – and speak aloud the AI’s “repaired” rendition of what the user intended to say.
Kate Lee, CEO, Alzheimer’s Society, said: “It’s vital people with dementia are able to live independently, doing things that bring them fulfilment, for as long as possible. And that’s exactly what tech innovation can provide.
“Today’s Discovery Award winners all have the capacity to develop cutting-edge tools that bring hope to the here and now, making a tangible difference to people’s lives.
“New drugs have been discovered which slow the progression of early Alzheimer’s disease, but there’s still more to do. Alzheimer’s Society remains committed to innovative projects like the Longitude Prize so that together we can improve the lives of people living with dementia and their families.”
Indro Mukerjee, CEO, Innovate UK said: “By addressing dementia the Longitude Prize tackles a global health crisis. Worldwide, around 50 million people have dementia and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year. Innovate UK is pleased to support this initiative along with the other vital work we are doing in this area. The UK is a global leader in innovation for healthy ageing and this prize will incentivise new technologies. This will help people with dementia, their families and their carers, to make living with the condition easier”.
The Longitude Prize on Dementia is driving the development of personalised, technology-based tools that are co-created with people living with the early stages of dementia, helping them live independent, more fulfilled lives and enable them to do the things they enjoy.
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.”
In 2024, five finalists will progress with additional £1.5m in funding to build real-world prototypes. In total, more than £3 million will be awarded in seed funding and development grants with a £1 million first prize to be awarded in 2026.