in collaboration with Viola Fu::
Echo is an immersive aesthetic experience for people with dementia. It builds on existing occupational therapy technologies by incorporating an EEG to measure the user’s brainwave activity. Would patterns mirroring the brainwaves of a dementia patient integrated into their built environment register in some captivating way? If so, would this experience be an enjoyable, long-term engagement for the patient? Or would it be nightmarish?
This project was a happy marriage of my collaborator Viola's interest in biotech and my experience caring for my mom when she had dementia. People with dementia are really challenging to care for. They (understandably) can become bored and restless but no longer have the faculties necessary to remediate these feelings autonomously. It's like looking after someone with the motor skills, attention span, patience, and judgement of a toddler, and the size, vocabulary, and history of psychological baggage of an adult. When my mom found something on TV that held her attention for a full half hour of air time, I was practically doing cartwheels. Around this stage of my mom's illness I started looking into occupational therapy gadgets - I wanted something as entrancing as a lava lamp but as safe as a stress ball. There's definitely already a market of these things, mostly for people with Autism, but also for folks with dementia, but given Viola's penchant for working with EEGs, I wondered what would happen to the entertainment value of these kinds of devices if they were made to be biometrically uncanny. In my interactions with Echo, I definitely felt there could be something to this. I don't have any plans to work with biosensors in the near future, but I think a refinement of the animation and color palette as well as experimentation with different channels of EEG data could yield some really mesmerizing results.