Hello, my name is Mario!

My job is to help elderly people, who may suffer from mild cognitive impairment, to improve their quality of life. I assist them, hence I talk to them, respond to their requests, assess their health status, and help them solving practical problems (e.g. finding the house keys). I am also one of their closest friends, hence I try to entertain them, also by helping them remembering the nicest memories of their life.

I am not the first one trying to talk to people; you may know about IBM Watson, Evi, Google Voice Action, Microsoft Bing Voice Search, Vlingo, and the very famous: Siri. Nevertheless, I face new challenges, since I have to understand natural language in a deeper way, being able to connect the meaning of words to the context that I perceive through my sensors (camera, laser, etc.).

Understanding natural language is not straightforward to me. It includes identifying important entities in a sentence, inferring the relations among them, link them to world objects. For example, if my friend Margaret tells me "I have been at John’s and Ariel’s wedding in Sicily", I have to understand (and store) that a wedding has been celebrated, that John and Ariel got married, that it happened in Sicily, and that Margaret was there. And if I have previous information about John and Ariel, I should link them to this new knowledge and be able to reuse it in future interactions.

I have to be polite by understanding when my friend is talking to me, responding in the most appropriate and gentle manner, and by making questions for having more information, when necessary.

I also care about her physical health. I am programmed to pose specific questions such as what day of the week it is, what year it is, etc. so as to evaluate her cognitive status. I also help Margaret by suggesting and remembering important things to her, for example the time to take pills, the time to eat, in case she forgets it.

If I perceive that she is getting bored or feeling lonely, I make sure to entertain her. For example, I may ask her “Hey Margaret, would you like to play twenty questions?” or “Margaret, do you remember Ariel’s wedding? Do you want to see pictures and video of the wedding?”

My memory will be an extension of Margaret’s memory. It is nice to remind her memories and events of her life. If someone talks about John’s and Ariel’s wedding, I can show pictures, and help her remembering facts I know about that event.

Last but not least, I know how to behave in response to certain requests. For example, if she asks me to show where the keys are or if she forgot where the toilet is, I can drive her there: I want to make sure she never feels disabled by helping her being autonomous, instead.

These are just a few of my abilities; it is not easy, I am facing many obstacles: each person speaks differently, the phrases may be ungrammatical or there may be interludes, such as "uhm" or pauses, and plenty of ambiguities, irony, loopholes, and contradictions.

It’s really challenging but I am doing my best to learn all these abilities for improving elders’ quality of life.

twitter share

Follow Mario on Twitter

Find Mario on Facebook


Subscribe to our newsletter, get updates on events and express you interest in participating in reserarch.

Join MARIO Net here!

Log in

Login to your account

Username *
Password *
Remember Me

  Co-funded by the European Union

Back to Top