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Co-designing better smart speakers and voice assistants.

Voice assistants have quickly improved during the last years, with more human-like voices and better voice recognition capabilities. 

Such assistants could be programmed with a "carer/nurse mode" to make it easier for older users to exploit its benefits. But it requires understanding of  what this means for older users.

My research idea is to evaluate how older users interact with commercially available assistants, and contrast it with younger users to identify biases in terms of the style of the commands given to the assistants, and the expected logic of the assistant's answers. Explore what are the possible services that could be of greatest benefit for the users when connected to the assistants: caregivers, shopping, pharmacy, laundry, pet shops?

Some ideas about how to improve smart speakers for older uses:

- Predefined reminders to do some movement: Hey! how about standing and  doing five squats and some back stretching?

- Mood detection: You sound sad today, would you like me to call someone? 

- Detection of a fall by sound, followed by a voice query like: Hey Jane, are you alright?

- Proactive friendly reminders, Hey Jane, do we still have milk, should I order some? have you taken your morning medication?


Do yo have some experience with this topic or ideas about how to improve the technology?

Some statistics about smart speakers:

Some advancements in the field:


edited on Oct 27, 2020 by Octavio Zamudio
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Bonolo Mod Oct 28, 2020

Is this like an Amazon Echo? Technology has a way of intensifying loneliness so including a human to human interaction aspect is important.

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Octavio Zamudio Nov 3, 2020

Hi Bonolo,

I can't agree more with you. This is just being explored by many companies. Ideally this technology would be just that, an voice assistant to make some things easier, and would (hopefully) never be intended as a replacement for human interaction.

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Miroslava Katsur Oct 29, 2020

Status labels added: Conversation starter, Innovative idea!

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Esther Hui Nov 4, 2020

This is very interesting! Thanks for posting. How will you detect their mood? How will their data be stored?

Users tagged:

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Octavio Zamudio Nov 24, 2020

Hi Esther! sorry for the late response.
Well, I do think that there are some voice-recognition algorithms capable of detecting mood to some extent. Of course, that's early development, but from data as movement, or sounds in the environment it would be possible to detect that the person is not active, that could be a sign to trigger some "proactive" assistance. The data storage question, well, this is just a thought, the idea of having this assistants is to help, and also to collect health data. this health data could be locally stored in a memory card or sent to a phone. Then could be used by doctors if requested. Also, this could work with a cloud (paid subscription) system, that's another story, but this could implement algorithms to detect X or Y conditions, and trigger an alert if something is off the charts, or indicates signs of a disease.

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Gordon Anderson Nov 19, 2020

Hi Octavio, I have worked a little with a company looking at this. They are called miiCare and a really nice group based in Kent and London. I can introduce you to the founder if you wish.

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Octavio Zamudio Nov 24, 2020

Hi Gordon! sorry, I just looked at their website, it looks pretty interesting. It would be really nice to get to know more of what they're doing.
Thanks for posting. My email is, also, if you get in touch with the founder, please include, as they are the team in charge of the platform!

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Georgie Cade Jan 13, 2021

Status labels removed: Conversation starter, Innovative idea!

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