Smart glasses for dementia land students top tech prize

The smart glasses were designed by Singapore Polytechnic students (from left) Chen Zihan, Nashita Fatima and Fang Qian.
The smart glasses were designed by Singapore Polytechnic students (from left) Chen Zihan, Nashita Fatima and Fang Qian.ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

SINGAPORE - A pair of smart glasses designed to help dementia patients suffering from memory loss recognise their loved ones has earned three students from Singapore Polytechnic (SP) a top technology award.

Ms Nashita Fatima, 20, Ms Chen Zihan, 22, and Ms Fang Qian, 20, won the grand prize in the Innovation category of the Huawei ICT Competition last month.

The glasses are a blend of artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

Two modules containing small cameras are mounted on the sides of the frame. Provided with images of the user's family members that are uploaded onto a server, the glasses' AI can be trained to recognise faces that are picked up by the cameras.

The software is also able to read out the names of family members and state how they are related to the user.

The different components are able to communicate because, like all IoT devices, the glasses are connected to the Internet.

The team, from SP's School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, also built a companion mobile app that allows family members to track where the glasses and their user are via the Global Positioning System.

Huawei cloud technology was used for data storage and several other features, while the team's AI model was developed on Huawei's AI platform ModelArts.

The fifth edition of the annual competition drew nearly 150,000 students from some 2,000 colleges and universities in 82 countries, with the numbers narrowed down to 327 students in 109 teams at the Nov 6-14 global finals.

Ms Fang, leader of the SP team, said they were inspired by the Forget-Me-Not Cafe TV show, which featured five elderly waiters with mild cognitive impairment serving food at a Chinese restaurant.

"During our research, we discovered that there are many products (blending AI and IoT) designed to increase people's quality of life, but not many are targeted at the elderly," said Ms Fang.

The trio hope to improve on the glasses - the demo version of which was shown at the competition - by making them smaller and easier to wear. They are also exploring adding a function to record the voices of family members so that users can hear their loved ones identifying themselves instead of the robotic voice currently used.

Huawei International chief executive officer Nicholas Ma said: "We are thrilled with the creativity of these young Singapore talents, and proud to help these seeds of the future ascend to the top of the world."

Two other teams from Singapore also took part in the global finals.

A second team from SP built a software system that senses when an elderly person falls, while a Temasek Polytechnic trio designed a system that automates the process of detecting a forest fire.