Swedish company to tackle loneliness among seniors with AI

Accenture, a global professional services company, has teamed up with Stockholm Exergi, one of Sweden’s largest energy suppliers, to put AI to the test in a new project aimed at addressing loneliness among seniors.

Loneliness can have a detrimental effect on health, including accelerating health problems such as depression and early-stage dementia in the elderly. Other studies have put loneliness on par with smoking and obesity for its negative impact on overall health.

The project, Memory Lane, works with Google Voice Assistant and uses conversational AI to create memorable stories for future generations and provide companionship for the elderly. The solution is meant to address the challenges of loneliness and social isolation among the elderly. In Stockholm, more then 250,000 experience acute loneliness, according to a Stockholm County Council report, while Sweden is among the loneliest countries in the world.

Participants engage in the project by using a smart speaker, which enables conversation by inviting a lonely person to tell their life story. The voice assistant asks personal questions and understands different answers to trigger follow-up questions. The discussion is converted into a physical book and podcast that can be shared by participants.

“When people experience little to no social interaction over extended periods of time, it can cause a sharp decline in their mental and physical health,” Adam Kerj, Nordics chief creative officer at Accenture Interactive, said in a statement. “In the two years we spent developing the software and the concept of the platform, we observed the urge to share stories by lonely participants was incredibly strong. To this end, we not only wanted to develop something that could hold a human-like conversation with them, but also capture those memories so they didn’t end up untold.”

Accenture Interactive Innovation Center developed the software, which is patent-pending. The software commits important details to memory and creates unique connections, or memory graphs, that fuel questions the software will ask next. The AI produces emotive, meaningful and human conversation, according to a press release.

“Prior to this, voice technology is not often perceived as human but this project and collaboration with Stockholm Exergi demonstrates that technology can contribute to connecting generations and making society healthier,” Christian Souche, director at Accenture Interactive Innovation Center, said. “Eventually we want to open this concept and platform out to everyone, to share their life stories, regardless of age.”