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Care homes get 21st century makeover thanks to Alexa and VR

The belief that care homes are out of date could be about to change, following a digital initiative that is bringing a 21st century make over to the elderly.

Called Digital Hub, it is already being trailed in a number of care homes across the UK. It offers residents the chance to experience new technologies, such as VR, Alexa and Philips Hue lighting, in order to both entertain and compliment the traditional activities of the elderly and physically challenged.

One such experience, called Stimul8, takes residents on a journey of discovery to one of eight different locations around the world. Each offers the option of a specifically themed meal or afternoon tea for a more interactive, centred experience.

Stimul8 uses a giant video wall, Philips Hue lighting and even air that is infused with scents to reflect the images on the screen. It is designed to immerse those present into a completely different world than the one they are used to on a daily basis.

The idea is to create a stimulating environment for the residents that can have a meaningful impact on their well-being in the home and give them a break from their daily routine.

A number of companies are already involved in the project, including Amazon, Samsung, Nanoleaf and Bose.

However, it’s not just about creating immersive experiences for afternoon tea, nor about replacing care staff with technology.

“We are mindful that this isn’t a case of removing the human element from care. Many of these activities are social and collaborative,” explained George Vaughan, who is in charge of the initative.

“For instance, the Audio Book Club is an opportunity for residents to meet regularly and listen to a story before engaging in a discussion about the subject matter at the end of each session.

“Our vision is to create a network of Digital Hubs that can provide residents and care homes an exciting new space to interact and learn from.”

The project is also looking at how they can bring Amazon Echo devices, and therefore Alexa, into resident’s rooms. These could enable them to control lights, music, heating and other devices with their voice rather than having to do so physically, or ask a carer to do it for them.

The tests, which so far have been using the Amazon Echo Show, also means residents have been able to enjoy video calls with their family and with each other.

Meanwhile, it seems you are never too old to use VR or AR. The initiative is looking at ways residents can relive moments or request specific travel destinations to visit from the comfort of their armchair via virtual reality.

Working in partnership with AR company, Looking Glass, it is also exploring ways to blend physical and digital activities together to create a video library of memories for residents and their families. This could help build a historical picture for the future.


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