Afterthought Software builds console for people with dementia
Afterthought Software has been contracted to build a new console to help people living with dementia.
The Bath Institute of Medical Engineering (BIME) asked Afterthought Software to design an Android app that would guide people step-by-step through important but routine tasks to increase their independence at home as part of a research project.
Dementia can cause people to lose their train of thought while carrying out a task, and getting back on track can be difficult without a carer present.
Afterthought Software director, Andy Duller, says: "“This is a very interesting project for us. We've had to listen carefully to the team at BIME because the design for this application is very different from the standard sort of request we receive.
“Normally clients want their logos all over their display, and are looking for ways to visually impress users. This application is totally different. It's important there are no distractions, so having flashy buttons or even visible screw-heads is a potential problem. People with dementia are still just as inquisitive as anyone else, so anything extraneous could cause them to pause and then forget the task.”
The working example delivered to BIME is a tablet with no external buttons at all – only a display screen. The display is in plain, large-scale text, and guides users through simple tasks one step at a time.
For example, the instructions for one of the research tasks involving a greetings card are: Take the card and sign it with your name; Put the card in the envelope; Put a stamp on the envelope.
The flexible software also allows researchers and potentially carers to add voice messages, pictures or even video clips to help reinforce the prompts, and to change these to suit each individual with dementia.
If at any point a user needs prompting, it is easy for them to see what stage in the process comes next.
Afterthought Software were able to deliver the working prototype within a week of BIME's first enquiry due to the use of a technique known as 'agile software development.'
Andy Duller explains: “We want the product owner involved very early on in the process and to keep them in the loop at every stage of development. The underlying goal is to release a version of the product to our customer as soon as possible. This gives them a chance to test what we are building as it is being created.”
Hazel Boyd, a user interface engineer at BIME, says they are very pleased with Afterthought Software's work so far.
Hazel says: “Afterthought Software came to us very quickly with an early, useable piece of software, to check that it was going to meet our needs before adding the remaining features. They then followed up quickly with the completed application, which we knew would meet our requirements.
"Afterthought Software listened very carefully to what we needed. They even advised us on what kind of tablet we should get and helped us to source it. They've not just thrown software at us.
“There is still a lot of work to be done before we have a product ready for market, but, thanks to Afterthought Software, we now have a tool that allows us to test our research findings, and that's invaluable.”