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A multi-modal Voice User Interface on the Google Assistant for Azheimer's caregivers

In response to the mounting pressures on Alzheimer's informal caregivers worldwide, I researched and designed a Multimodal Voice User Interface (VUI) prototype for the Google Home Assistant as a final UX project at the General Assembly. This innovative solution aimed to diminish pain points, combat isolation, and prepare caregivers for unexpected scenarios.

The prototype

My role and
competencies:

My role in this product design project, which was a part of my UX certificate program at General Assembly, consisted of executing an ultra-fast end-to-end design process. I delved into multimodal user interfaces (VUI and GUI) as a key aspect of the final product, for the novelty and possibilities of the technology. I also established a cross-functional collaboration with peers in the GA program, and pro-bono contributors from Alzheimer’s Research UK, and Visyon 360, with their technical expertise.

Chapter 1:

Problem space

Recent studies point that the number of dementia and Alzheimer’s cases will reach 155 million globally by 2050. Caring for those individuals often falls on family caregivers, leading to fatigue, financial strain, and emotional stress. Existing services are fragmented and lack interoperability, leaving caregivers underserved. Innovative, user-centric solutions are urgently needed to support caregivers in this challenging domain.

Report by The Economist Intelligence Unit on the impact of Alzheimer's on the UK economy

Chapter 2:

Methodolgy

Human-Centred Design and Design Thinking

 

I fully embraced Human-Centred Design and Design Thinking principles during the process in order to develop a deeply empathetic solution, prioritising users' specific needs and goals. This method required effective collaboration and co-creation, ensuring the use of technology in a way that supports well-being, empowerment, independence, and dignity in the context of caregiving.

Chapter 3:

Topic deep dive

1 starting with desk research 

 

I conducted extensive desk research on the topic, reviewing reports from Alzheimer's Society UK, Alzheimer's Research UK, and The Economist Intelligence Unit. I also went through academic journals, healthcare publications, and caregiver forums on social platforms to gain comprehensive insights into the challenges and existing solutions in this field.

2 initial user interviews 

 

I followed up with six phone interviews with family caregivers to gain insights into their experiences and challenges in a variety of contexts and the condition stages. I also interviewed two senior care home managers to understand the caregiving processes and operations from a professional perspective.

3 quantitative survey 

 

I concluded the research step with a quantitative survey in the UK, Germany, and Spain to validate previous findings and gather insights into technology usage by caregivers. Respondents were also asked to provide summarised diaries of their daily activities. That added valuable information about their pain points and challenges.

Chapter 4:

Building a profile

The primary persona

​The caregiving scenarios for dementia patients are diverse, with adult offspring often caring for their elderly parents, and spouses looking after their partners. While the group and gender distribution varied, a significant number of female caregivers were observed during the research. Therefore, for the primary persona, a middle-aged female caregiver taking care of her husband was selected to represent this prevalent group.

Family caregivers need a way to get continuous support throughout their caring journey for their loved ones because the demands are very real and can lead to self-neglect, isolation, and physical and mental exhaustion.

Readiness

As a caregiver I need relevant information about what the progression and impact of Alzheimer's on my loved one just so I can plan things in advance.

Support

As a caregiver I need all the support and resources I can get from family, friends, and even technology. It would be impossible to do all of this on my own.

Connection

As a caregiver I need social interaction especially with people in the same position, just so I can share, learn, feel less lonely and more supported.

The hypothesis

"I believe that by building a multi-modal assistive system centred on voice interaction that provides guidance for family caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer's  I will reduce friction during multi-tasking, give valuable information, and ease their sense of isolation and loneliness."

Chapter 5:

Solution space

Visualising use case scenarios

 

Using insights from interviews and user diaries, I crafted journey storyboards to pinpoint moments when caregivers encountered challenges in their daily routine. Envisioning a hands-free, conversational interface solution, I illustrated three primary use cases: accessing real-time information, making hands-free calls, and seeking support – all seamlessly integrated into caregivers' ongoing tasks. 

Storyboards

Prototype core features

Instant access to expert information

Hands-free calls to family and friends

Task organiser and notification system

Hand-off between the VUI and GUI

Dialogue sample: VUI