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RecAlz Immerse - VR Android App for Dementia Patients

I joined Digital Impact Sqaure, TCS as a Resident Innovator in January, 2018. Over the course of 6 months, I got the opportunity to work with multidisciplinary teams dedicated to solving complex societal challenges. This post aims to give you a glimpse into that journey.


Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning and behavioural abilities to an extent that it interferes with a person's daily life and activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia that causes problems in memory thinking and behaviour. The diagnosis rate for Alzheimer’s in India is very low. People often refer to it as whimsical behaviour cropping from old age. The disease can run its course from 2-20 years and turn a fully functioning adult or senior citizen into a helpless individual.

People with dementia (PWD) find that they lack the motivation to do anything. Repeated difficulty in carrying out a task may also be a painful reminder of the progression of the disease along with the issue of personal pride – not wanting to show others that one cannot do something well. Many carers find it difficult to deal with apathy, particularly if the person with dementia has always been a fairly active person. This results in a strained PWD and caregiver relationship.

Our aim was to provide meaningful and positive distractions, to reduce caregiver stress and burden so that they can perform their routine tasks easily.

Phase 1 | Probe & Research

Tackling Alzheimer is no small feat. We really needed to undeerstand the enitre subject and then make an assesment of where we could have the maxiumum impact. After carefully analyzing and breaking down the user jounery ( screening, diagnosis, treatement, management), we concluded it was best for us to focus on disease management. Below is some sample output from our research and mapping exercises

Stakeholder & User Journey Mapping

Keeping the PWD at the core, we wanted to asses the level of involvement of each actor using proximity and frequency as key factors. This would enable us to broadly establish actors in direct and indirect contact of the person with dementia and give us a bird eye view on the entire ecosystem.

We learnt that spouse, grandchildren, son, daughter and professional caregiver are directly involved in the patients life. Whereas, the NGO, relatives and nutritionist are indirectly involved.

Although spouse and children are close to the patient. The level of involvement and responsibility on the spouse would be higher than that of the children.

Ideal Jounrney vs Real Journey

Ideal Journey

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Real Journey

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Sample User Personas

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User Mood Mapping

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Apart from memory problems, people with dementia often exhibit apathetic behaviours. To the caregiver, the person with dementia and apathy can appear as showing less or no interest in previously enjoyed activities, lack of motivation to initiate activities (including self-care), lack of ability to persist with activities, withdrawal from social activities, and showing less emotional responses to daily events. Many carers find it difficult to deal with apathy, particularly if the person with dementia has always been a fairly active person. This results in a strained PWD and caregiver relationship.

How might we...

  • Provide positive and meaningful distractions, that help make mundane daily routines of persons with dementia enjoyable
  • Help Individuals affected with Alzheimers by keeping them engaged, so that we can ensure that the relationship between the care giver and the PWD improves.

Proposed Solution

We realized an urgent need of engaging person with dementia with some positive meaningfull distraction that can keep them engaged for some time so that caregivers can get some time for them and can utilize this time for their own tasks or can rest during this period. RecAlz VR is one step closer to this. RecAlz VR contains curated content based on the liking of person with dementia .We mainly focused on music videos from their early 40s or 50s ,because we realized that music is something that remains intact in a person’s brain and the part of brain that processes music remains well as compared to other parts of brain.

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This is the screenshot of the login screen of the remote app. As I signed NDA I wont be able to share the functionality of the application.

Though here is the link to one of our first pilot test and user reaction: VIDEO