University of Guelph student helps create music playback device for people with dementia

Frazer Seymour, a computer science student at the University of Guelph, helped develop a prototype this past summer with a team of researchers at Autodesk that aims to address that challenge.

Interchangeable play, skip and volume functions tailors the device to personal need

The Adaptable Music Interface (AMI) is a playback device prototype designed to help seniors with dementia be able to play and skip songs or adjust the volume on a tablet. (YouTube)

Navigating iTunes or Spotify on a smart phone or tablet is easy for the average person but for people with dementia, the simple task of skipping a song or adjusting the volume can be a challenge. 

Frazer Seymour, a computer science student at the University of Guelph, helped develop a prototype this past summer with a team of researchers at Autodesk that they hope will make that easier. 

Seymour's interest in developing such an interface sparked when he was in high school, and both his grandmothers were diagnosed with forms of dementia. Music has been shown to boost brain activity among Alzheimer's patients and has been used to "break through" to people with dementia. 

That stayed with him through university and eventually led him to develop a prototype during his five-month internship with Autodesk.

The Adaptable Music Interface

The Adaptable Music Interface (AMI) is a playback device prototype designed to help seniors with dementia play and skip songs or adjust the volume on a tablet by making those functions easier and more obvious using modular buttons and dials. 

"Someone living with dementia, their condition changes, their abilities change," Seymour told CBC News. 

That's why the chassis has interchangeable types of play, skip and volume functions — including dials, switches or buttons — which tailor the device to the person's specific needs based on their physical and cognitive state.

Seymour explains that someone in the early stages of dementia may find it easier to manipulate knobs and not need a simplistic button interface until the disease progresses further. Others may have physical impairments, like shaky hands, that make a volume switches easier to operate than a volume dial. 

"One of the buttons that we used in the feed back sessions, some people couldn't use, they were too hard," he said. "And so if those were the ones that we chose, that device is now instantly unusable for some people."

Seymour adds that the AMI prototype is in the early phases and not yet available to consumers. Developers at LifeMusic, who are in a partnership with Autodesk, are working on creating the final product. 

For people with dementia, the simple task of skipping a song or adjusting the volume can be a challenge. Frazer Seymour, a computer science student at U of G, helped develop a prototype with a team of researchers at Autodesk to help address that challenge 6:03

Corrections

  • An earlier version of the story mentioned Autodesk was continuing with the development of AMI when in fact it is LifeMusic, who are in partnership with Autodesk.
    Dec 07, 2017 10:00 AM ET