Every three seconds, someone in the world is diagnosed with dementia. The World Health Organization forecasts that 78 million people will have some type of dementia globally by 2030. These astonishing figures have prompted governments and healthcare professionals to work on specific policies to address the growing rate – but telecom engineers have also joined the conversation.
In an article published in April 2022, researchers suggested 6G and Artificial Intelligence (AI) might play a critical role in helping patients diagnosed with dementia have a more active and comfortable life.
According to the global association Alzheimer’s Disease International, dementia “is an umbrella term for a collection of symptoms caused by disorders affecting the brain and impact memory, thinking, behaviour and emotion.” The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.
In the early stages, symptoms may include forgetfulness, losing track of time, and becoming lost in familiar places. In the late stage, patients become unaware of the time and place, have difficulty recognizing relatives and friends, increasingly need assistance with self-care, among other indications. Check the WHO’s website for further information on dementia.
The researchers reviewed over 30 peer-reviewed articles, in addition to several pieces of up-to-date news, and analysed how and where 6G could assist. They came up with two major areas of contribution: Memory impairment and motor impairment.
“6G technologies, coupled with AI techniques, can truly materialise smart dementia care —networking infrastructure with the ability to seamlessly transform data points into evidence-based and intelligent decision-making processes,” the researchers said. “In turn, [6G and AI] offer much-needed insights into dementia care and management from a big data analysis perspective, effectively bridging some of the most ingrained research gaps in the literature.”
More specifically, they have highlighted seven possible solutions:
- RFusion: A robotic arm that could help dementia patients find lost items based on camera and antenna data analysed by advanced AI algorithms.
- Egocentric Live 4D Perception: An AI-powered project that could enable machines like virtual reality headsets to help people with dementia better navigate daily activities such as finding lost items, limiting accidental over-medications, and promoting social interactions.
- Project Relate: An AI-powered communication tool built by Google to help people with speech impairments communicate smoothly via Google Assistant.
- Project Activate: An AI-powered algorithm that allows people with speech and motor impairments to use facial expressions as smartphone commands.
- Avatar Robot Café: A robot (as in this article’s featured image) and AI-empowered system that allows house-bound or bed-ridden patients to engage in society by piloting robots. They would work remotely in the form of physical robot servers and virtually control these robots using an AI-powered system at home or even in bed.
- Affectiva: An AI system that could recognise and analyse car drivers’ emotional and cognitive states, such as distraction, fatigue, and heatstroke – information that can then be used to send alerts to the drivers to prevent potential accidents.
- PARO and other social robots: A sensor-based therapeutic robot that could improve the patient’s mood, social interaction, and wellbeing. Some examples of how 6G and AI would enhance these social robots include connecting with more advanced AI health surveillance systems and turning assistive robots into multi-functional care assistants (perform a memory evaluation test or provide patients with a broader range of services).
“While scientists continue to work on finding effective pharmaceutical interventions that could help cure or curb [dementia’s development], speedy, supportive, and successful non-pharmaceutical interventions are needed to address and alleviate the everyday health challenges people with dementia face,” the researchers observed.
Even though the authors highlight the boost 6G would provide, they also acknowledged other simultaneous approaches are needed to treat dementia – now and in the future. “Nontechnology-based dementia care solutions, as well as technologies that are beyond the scale and scope of 6G and AI, also play a critical role in [treating] dementia.”
Feature image by Orylab
Journalist since eight years old, when I would read the newspaper out loud and pretend it was a radio show. Based in São Paulo, I have worked for Brazilian websites as reporter and editor before joining 6GWorld