Domus Laboratory: Living Labs for Designing Assistive Technology
Sylvain Giroux is the director and the co-founder of the DOMUS laboratory. DOMUS has an extensive research experience in using participatory design, pervasive computing, ambient intelligence, and living labs to design, explore, and evaluate a wide range of innovative solutions for cognitive assistance aimed to foster the autonomy of people with Dementia, Alzheimer's disease, mild cognitive impairments, traumatic brain injury (TBI), mental retardation, or schizophrenia. Building pervasive assistance systems is a very complex challenge that requires deep knowledge, practical experience, and sophisticated hardware. Sylvain Giroux has put into place the compulsory blend of interdisciplinary expertise, a rich international network of organizations, and a unique world-class infrastructure.
Mobile and Pervasive Assistive Technologies
Since 2008,, several cognitive orthotics were designed and implemented and evaluated at DOMUS. The resulting set of orthotics can support a wide variety of activities of daily living (ADL) to foster autonomy at home for people with cognitive impairments, e.g. medication, meal preparation, or budget. For instance, meal preparation is crucial for social participation and autonomy. Sylvain Giroux was deeply and closely involved in the interdisciplinary research that produced three cooking assistants: Archipel (2008), SemAssist (2010) and MyHelper (2015). Archipel is designed for people with mental retardation and relies on procedural assistance. SemAssist, is designed for elders with semantic memory deficits. MyHelper is aimed to help people with severe traumatic brain injury to cook complex meals. MyHelper incorporates evidence-based best practices in occupational therapy to support metacognition. To a larger extend, Sylvain Giroux and his collaborators are developing a novel formal theory of cognitive rehabilitation. Clinical studies with Archipel and SemAssist results were beyond expectations. All cognitively impaired people involved were able to prepare successfully their meals and less assistance was required. MyHelper will soon be experimented in DOMUS living lab. Indeed, almost all cognitive assistance systems developed at DOMUS is evaluated with real users in real conditions.
Cognitive deficits have high human, social and economic costs. People who have suffered from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and people with Alzheimer’s disease know how cognitive deficits can disrupt a life. In turn, their caregivers are continually faced with exhaustion before the heavy workload and resource scarcity. Because of a present lack of cognitive assistance and supervision systems, they must often leave their homes to live in institutions. The cognitive assistive technologies are feasible, relevant and effective. For example, it has been shown that the use of technology in everyday life by people with Alzheimer’s disease delays their institutionalization by 8 months on average, while improving their happiness, independence, social contacts and safety.
Sylvain Giroux's research program will develop a framework for building pervasive context-aware cognitive assistants for the purpose of rehabilitation and / or compensation for people with cognitive impairment, e.g. Alzheimer's and TBI. A cognitive assistant will assist generally just one specific activity of daily living. Such a cognitive assistant will be deployed in smart habitats equipped with sensors (smart stove, smart watches, motion sensors, flow meters, microphones, RFID ...) and effectors (touch screens, lighting, speakers ...). Because it is key to autonomy, meal preparation will be the main activity to be assisted, from realization (choice of recipes, planning, implementation and self-reporting) to security. First, the cognitive assistant has to build and develop a personalized cognitive intervention plan. For this, it selects rehabilitation and compensation strategies that are best suited to the context and to the person, relying on the best evidence-based support practices. The resulting intervention plan helps identify and anticipate potential problems. It is also used to decide when and how to give concrete assistance. The cognitive assistant transforms the plan in a sequence of abstract assistance acts. This sequence corresponds to a dialogue between the user and the assistant. Each assistance act is then translated into concrete actions distributed throughout the habitat or into specific user interfaces. To decide and act, the assistant queries ontologies and reasons based on the context (cognitive profile and user preferences, user location, available sensors and actuators, sensor status...). Contextual high-level knowledge is produced thanks to activity recognition processes fed by data collected by the sensors. Finally, assistance in preparing meals is not the sole activity to assist. One must purchase groceries, ensure the adoption of safe behaviors ... giving rise to many cognitive assistants that must coordinate to interact with the resident. Participatory design will be used to create and implement the cognitive assistants. They will be validated in living labs.
DOMUS Interdisciplinary Laboratory: Research focuses on intelligent habitats for people with cognitive impairments, including people with traumatic brain injuries (TBI), dementia, intellectual disability or schizophrenia. Since 2005, DOMUS has created a smart 4½ room apartment with state-of-the-art technology situated on the main campus of the Université de Sherbrooke . Research is also conducted outside the campus, e.g. in a residence for TBI, residences for seniors, or even individual apartments.
A Living Laboratory: Thanks to a $ 1.1 million grant, Sylvain Giroux set a living laboratory in an alternative residence. This residence, which houses 10 people suffering from head trauma, has been completely equipped with sensors and effectors.
Cognitive orthoses: Sylvain Giroux has participated in numerous projects that have led to cognitive orthotics for people with cognitive deficits and / or their caregivers (e.g., recall of activities, groceries, budget management, night wandering). Among the activities of daily living (ADL), meal preparation occupied a prominent position with the creation of three orthotics that demonstrated great potential: Archipel (step-by-step assistance, clients: intellectual disability), SemAssist (Level of semantic memory, clientele: semantic dementia) and MyHelper (assistance in metacognition, clientele: TBI). These orthotics have all been validated by field studies.
For more of Sylvain Giroux's publications, please visit his Expertus page.