UW developing AI caretakers that could assist the elderly and disabled

This is a press release that the UW will put out about a trip I’m taking to D.C. Sunday! Kind of exciting… On the poster than I’m presenting there are two big mug shots of Ted and Eileen that I use to tell a story about two different people. I didn’t ask to use their picture. I hope they don’t sue me. I hope I can finish it in time… (There are some typos because it was translated from MS Word, not because we have a lame PR department.)

FROM: Rob Harrill
(206) 543-2580
(NOTE: researcher contact information at end)
For Immediate Release
March 16, 2004
A hand-held device that can precisely pinpoint a person’s location, track the user’s movements and give directions could mean freedom for many seniors whose navigational abilities are failing.
And it could bring greater peace of mind to family members overwhelmed by the demands of caring for an elderly parent.
University of Washington graduate student Don Patterson will be on Capitol Hill today to demonstrate such a device, dubbed ìOpportunity Knocks,î as part of a technology demo sponsored by the Center for Aging Services Technologies. He will be among ….

…15 researchers from around the country showing inventions and products that can address the healthcare needs of 76 million baby boomers as they approach old age.
Opportunity Knocks is the latest version of a navigational device being developed under the Assisted Cognition program in the UWís Department of Computer Science & Engineering. It consists of a next-generation cell phone that captures the userís location via a GPS beacon, then sends that information via a high-speed phone network to a computer server. The program on the server uses the location information, along with other variables such as mode of transportation, real-time bus location information (available in Seattle) and predicted destination, then decides whether the user is on course.
If the user has gotten off course, or seems about to miss an opportunity ñ like not getting off at the right bus stop or walking toward their parked car ñ the telephone is prompted to make a door-knocking sound to get the personís attention and suggest a course of action.
ìThis is an active, not a passive, device, and is much different than something like ìMapquest,î Patterson said. ìUsers donít specify a location and use just one click to select a destination, yet the phone can use real-time information to get them where they want to go.î
Opportunity Knocks is one of a number of projects being undertaken by the UWís Assisted Cognition group, which is chipping away at the complex issues involved in creating an AI caretaker. The stakes, according to the team, are high.
In the last 50 years, Alzheimerís disease has grown from relative obscurity to become a defining characteristic of industrialized society. In 1950, at the most 200,000 people in the United States suffered from the ailment. The total stands at 4 million today, according to the National Institute on Aging. By 2050, barring a cure, the number of U.S. sufferers is expected to reach 15 million, out of a total of 80 million worldwide.
As the need for assistance increases, AI caretakers could give patients more independence, save family members from emotional burnout and free adult caregivers to return to the workforce.
While the computing sophistication needed to build a comprehensive AI caretaker is probably 20 to 30 years away, the time to begin is now, says Professor Henry Kautz, leader of the Assisted Cognition Project.
ìThe question is whether we can build systems that are smart enough, flexible enough and reliable enough to replace human caregivers,î Kautz said. ìIím confident that we can, but it will be an incremental process.
For more information, contact Kautz at (206) 543-1896 or kautz@cs.washington.edu, or Patterson at djp3@cs.washington.edu. Patterson will be in the Washington, D.C., area through (date) at can be contacted at (cell phone?).

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3 Responses to UW developing AI caretakers that could assist the elderly and disabled

  1. Aunt Flora says:

    Don, could you possibly pick up the pace a bit, I doubt that I can wait 20 to 30 years!

  2. Nancy Palmer says:

    lOVE, Aunt Nancy

  3. Mike says:

    Congratulations, I know you’ve put a lot of time and effort into your research. Say hi to George for us.

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