Arduino makers project - Memo


MEMO expands the design of a normal wall-calendar through the integration of small detachable magnetic objects. Each object represents a particular appointment. They can be removed from the calendar and carried anywhere with you. These portable objects trigger a multi-sensory memory process in advance of an appointment, even when the calendar is not close-by. The MEMO objects are made of materials that the user associates with people they see regularly or events that take place on a regular basis.

Playing music forms another part of the multi-sensory memory process. The music chosen will also be associated with a particular person or event. This allows the MEMO objects to become more easily linked with specific meanings. Both the music and the material should have a personal association for the user, in order to support the processes in the brain. Light and vibration are additional signals that are part of the multi-sensory memory process.

Project in the master‘s program at Weissensee School of Art, Berlin
Supervisors : Prof. Carola Zwick, Prof. Nils Krüger, Mika Satomi
Support Hardware and Software: Mika Satomi
Cooperation: BMW

Full video here!


What have you made?

In addition to the development of design prototypes for the MEMO objects, I developed a technical prototype with Arduino. This technical prototype simulates the multi-sensory memory process and enabled the testing of various interaction opportunities. Both, the design and the technical prototypes have been tested in conjunction with the Brandenburg Alzheimer Society and helped to elaborate the shape, sizes and the different materials of the MEMO objects.

What gave you the initial inspiration?

Memories affect our personality and enable us to manage our daily lives. Memory loss can lead to a crisis of identity and feelings of helplessness. Normally, simple memory aids such as Post-its or wall-calendars can be used to cope with normal forgetfulness and to remind us of up-coming events. However, when individuals experience mild cognitive impairment (MCI), age-related forgetfulness, or more debilitating conditions such as dementia, normal memory aids like wall-calendars no longer suffice. Memory loss makes it more difficult for individuals to manage daily life independently.

Discussions with experts on this topic have revealed that people with dementia or mild cognitive impairment, lose their sense of time and forget important appointments. As a result they often go to their calendars to check for upcoming events. However, this information is often quickly forgotten once the calendar is out of sight. This leads to stress and discontent in the affected person, which in turn has a negative influence on the progression of the illness.

How can we remain self-reliant when our cognitive faculties deteriorate?

What is the original idea behind this project?

To create a system that supports people with cognitive impairment through their daily life without to patronise or stigmatise them. Give them small objects which are constant companions and with which they can play even when they forget the meaning behind it.

How does it work?

The reminder process has three separate phases, the initialisation phase, the preparation phase and the departure phase, at which point, one should leave for the appointment in order to arrive on time. A certain time before the appointment music, vibration and light begins to play. Short pauses serve to prevent the user from growing accustomed to the sensory signals. Even people with impaired hearing will perceive a change in the acoustic atmosphere. The music stops automatically on leaving the home in order not to draw attention. The duration of the intervals decrease incrementally in order to increase urgency. This is supported by the change of the LED colours from green over yellow to red from phase to phase. Timing, such as when the process begins, the length of the phases and the duration of the intervals, can all be individually adapted. The user can do this together with a relative or carer.

If it is, despite melody and material unclear, with whom and where the upcoming appointment takes place, you can rotate the MEMO object and a recorded message of the event is played. If the memory process is perceived as unpleasant, it can be stopped for a brief moment by pressing the MEMO object. Pressing the object outside of a memory process, triggers the according melody of the MEMO object. This playful way help to internalise the link to the person or the event.

How long did it take to make it real?

It took about three months including the concept and test phases.

How did you build it?

The basis was an Arduino Mini 05. I put on it two tilt sensor, MP3 shield, speaker, a fabric button made with conductive fabric, 2 RGB LEDs, a bluetooth module and a batterie. This was placed into the prototype, which was built of two halves each made of a CNC milled plexiglass ring and plastic felt. I controlled the prototype over an Android phone via Amarino.