PaeLife: Personal Assistant
to Enhance the Social Life of Seniors

Technology has impact in all aspects of our life, particularly in the way we grow older. By 2050, the number of elderly people (aged over 65) across the EU is estimated to increase from 16.4% in 2004 to 29.9% (Eurostat 2005). Although today’s elderly people over 65 may show some resistance to the adoption of technology, tomorrow’s elderly will have used technology in the last one or two decades of their lives, and due to their healthy lifestyles, they are likely to be kept physically, socially and cognitively active until later. PaeLIFE focuses on recently retired individuals who are used to some level of technology usage and who want to keep themselves active, productive and socially engaged, through the use of a Personal (Virtual) Life Assistant (PLA) - a virtual presence who supports social communication, learning and entertainment. Paelife will fight elderly isolation by enhancing seniors’ connectivity to family, friends and society.



The PaeLife Project is co-financed by the AAL Joint Programme (AAL JP) and the following National Authorities in Portugal, Hungary, Poland and France:
AAL Joint Programme              National autorities (FCT, ANR, NCBIR, NIH)

   

Strategic objectives

The project’s main goal is to fight isolation and exclusion and to allow the elderly to be more productive, independent and to have a more social and fulfilling life. Grouping all the benefits, one can see that the project aims at enhancing the quality of life of older people and strengthen the industrial base in Europe through the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). By addressing Speech Recognition (SR) systems specially adapted to the elderly, Paelife will expand state-of-the-art in this area, seeing seniors as relevant, taking into account the existent limitations and needs.



The PaeLife Project is co-financed by the AAL Joint Programme (AAL JP) and the following National Authorities in Portugal, Hungary, Poland and France:
AAL Joint Programme              National autorities (FCT, ANR, NCBIR, NIH)

   

Partners

The Paelife team joins a consortium of 8 partners, located in Portugal, France, Hungary and Poland. They represent a full set of complementary competences regarding their core activities and specializations. By joining forces and approaches from different points of view the project will create new opportunities for end users and other relevant stakeholders.

MSFT - Software para Microcomputadores, LDA
Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores, Investigação e Desenvolvimento em Lisboa
Budapest University of Technology and Economics
The Bay Zoltán Foundation for Applied Research
Knowledge Society Association
Genitech
University of Technology of Troyes
Universidade de Aveiro




The PaeLife Project is co-financed by the AAL Joint Programme (AAL JP) and the following National Authorities in Portugal, Hungary, Poland and France:
AAL Joint Programme              National autorities (FCT, ANR, NCBIR, NIH)

   

PaeLife Pilots

The PaeLife team has been working hard to further improve the AALFred application. AALFred is a personal life assistant that helps and guides users in the access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). With AALFred, social networks, email and video calls can be easily accessed and used to make the elderly more active and less isolated. Also, interesting information such as news and access to nearby services is delivered in an easy and integrated way. More information regarding AALFred can be consulted in the application section of this website.

We currently have a stable and tested version of AALFred that is going to be deployed for user testing in Poland, Hungary, France and Portugal.

Lisbon Consortium meeting (7th-8th of July)

The sixth Paelife Consortium meeting was held on the 7th and 8th of July 2014. This meeting took place in the beautiful city of Lisbon, Portugal (organized by Microsoft) and was attended by all Project Partners. In this meeting, the partners discussed the current Project status and the final stage of this collaborative initiative. One of the most relevant topics was the discussion of the PaeLife Pilots that are going to take place in Poland, Hungary, France and Portugal.

More news about the achieved results and next steps are already available in our 7th and last newsletter. Please feel free to consult it. Our newsletters are available in the Paelife official languages (English, Polish, Hungarian, French and Portuguese) and can be consulted here.

Aveiro Consortium meeting (20th-21th of February)

The fifth PaeLife Consortium meeting took place on the 20th and 21st of February in the Portuguese Venice, Aveiro at the Universidade de Aveiro. The university was created in 1973 and is considered one of the most dynamic and innovative universities of Portugal, with its 430 professors and 11000 undergraduate and 1300 post-graduate students around.

In this meeting, partners discussed the current status and agreed on the next steps of the project. The final version of the application, with all the modules and interaction modalities integrated will be ready at the beginning of July.

VTS

Voice Talent Selection is a selection of a person who’s “voice” will be the “voice of AALFred”. The VTS methodology has been created by MSFT and used in each of the participating countries. The chosen male voices for the VTS – which were mostly selected among those which had participated in the voice data collection - have been evaluated, first by a panel of experts, then by a panel of older users. Casting sessions were organized in each of the consortium countries. After having the selected voice a studio recording will be done with the winners. The studio recording will consist of reading 2000 sentences. Afterwards the synthetized voices can be trained and generated.

In France, a special workshop was organized as part of the “Matinales” regularly organized at UTT’s Living Lab and where the local TV was present. On the left screen, the AALFred application was displayed so that the users could constantly have AALFred in mind, on the other screen, the audio recordings could be listened one after the other. Now, the next step for the selected voice is the studio recording.

In Poland they also know what voice will be speaking to the Polish seniors. Seniors have chosen the winner voice out of the recorded voices. It is the voice of a man, aged 60 plus: low, quiet, balanced and at the same time strong and clear. Polish experts and a group of befriended seniors voted unanimously and decided on the winner. The Polish partner is planning to record soon and looking forward to the birth of AALFred – Personal life Assistant for the elderly speaking in Polish.

In Hungary not only a male but also a female voice has been selected. The casting session was held at the BZN where the candidates could also try the available gesture modalities and the second version of AALFred. The first evaluation of the recorded voices was done by BME and then after the votes of the older users the voices have been chosen. The studio recording will be done in May and the voice training and generation will be done till the end of June.

Preliminary User Tests

PaeLife’s user tests on the first working version of the prototype have been made in France, last September. The insights produced – from the perspective of the users – have been used, in an iterative approach, to inform improvements. The second version has now been developed and is now available for testing, which will start in the next weeks. The objective of the preliminary user tests was to evaluate the services available so far – Email, Agenda, Social Network and Call – considering 3 issues. First, the users would provide feedback on the perceived usefulness of the services proposed. Second, the aim was to understand the users’ existing practices concerning mediated communication and use of technological devices, so as to question how the services could support the elders’ social interaction habits, and therefore integrate coherently into their way of life. The third issue was an imbricated usefulness/usability question. The system offering mixed interaction modalities, our concern was to examine how the users would manage to operate between these different modes, and if this mixed modalities was perceived as useful or not. The main insight is that users confirmed the utility of proposing multimodal interaction, including speech and gesture modalities, which constitute AALFred’s added value.

AAL Forum (24-26 September)







PaeLife will be participating in the AAL Forum 2013, which will be held in Nörrkoping, Sweden, from the 24th - 26th September. Taking place every year, the AAL Forum is an ideal opportunity for the increasing European AAL community to meet and discuss topics that are relevant for improving the AAL Joint Programme and to debate the adoption of AAL solutions into the market.
PaeLife will be presented in two sessions: session A2 (The impact of ICT based social interaction on the quality of life of older adults) and session A3 (Participation in the e-service society).

Warsaw meeting (11th-12th July)

The forth Paelife Consortium meeting was held on the 11th and 12th of July. This meeting took place in the beautiful city of Warsaw, Poland (organized by SSW) and was attended by all Project Partners. In this meeting, the partners discussed the current Project status, including the results achieved so far, and important decisions were made regarding the Project’s future. More news about the results achieved are already available in our last newsletter. Please feel free to consult it. Our newsletters are available in the Paelife official languages (English, Polish, Hungarian, French and Portuguese) and can be consulted here.

PaeLife Mid-term review (25th March)

The PaeLife mid-term review meeting took place at Microsoft Portugal in Lisbon on March 25th 2013. All partners were present at the review that was conducted by the AAL Joint Programme commission, plus two external evaluators hired to assess the Project’s progress. In this meeting the results from the first year of the PaeLife Project were presented and discussed with the EU Commission. A demonstration of the preliminary PaeLife system was also given to show the current development status of the PaeLife product. Overall, the Project’s evaluation was considered positive and some suggestions were underlined by the EU Commission to take into account in the next steps of the PaeLife Project. The multimodal and multilingual Human computer Interface (HCI), proposed by the PaeLife Project and dedicated to the elderly, was considered very interesting and innovative.

Paris Meeting (14th-15th February)

On the 14th and 15th of February, the third Paelife consortium meeting was held. This meeting occurred in Malakoff, Paris (organized by Genigraph, Groupe Genitech) and was attended by all Project Partners. In this meeting, the partners discussed the current Project status, including the results achieved so far, and important decisions were made regarding the Paelife services and final product. Branding ideas were also brainstormed. More news about the results achieved so far will be available in our next newsletter. Please feel free to consult it. Our newsletters are available in the Paelife official languages (English, Polish, Hungarian, French and Portuguese) here.

Budapest Meeting (12th-13th July)

The last PaeLife Consortium Meeting, held at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME) on 12th and 13th July, was attended by all project partners. There the partners discussed the current Project status, including the results achieved so far, future actions to consider and the next deadlines for the PaeLife Project.

Project Kick-off

The official kick-off of the PaeLife collaborative project took place on the 28th February 2012, at INESC-ID (Lisbon). There the initial ideas for the PaeLife project were discussed as well as the establishment of a plan for the first months of work.

European Year for Active Ageing

This European Commission initiative aims to help older people to take an active role in society and encourage healthy ageing. EU is in a process of significant population ageing, which presents challenges for sustainable public finances. The proposed European Year for Active Ageing is designed to serve as a framework for raising awareness, for identifying and disseminating good practice and, most importantly, for encouraging policymakers and stakeholders at all levels to promote active ageing. Official Website for 2012 Active Ageing in Europe.

Several related initiatives in Portugal, that are currently ongoing

MLDC – Microsoft Language Development Center has three related projects: LUL, focusing on the development of technologies and services to support healthy, productive and active citizens; S4S that aims to enhance the quality of life of older people by preventing isolation, promoting independence and supporting in health improvement and ALL4ALL presents an idea for an answer through the development of an ecosystem of products and services for Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) associated to a business model and validated through large scale trial. More information is available here.

Windows Phone

Windows Phone has various social applications that are easy and intuitive to use, and is one of the platforms that new technologies, related to the elderly and several citizenship Projects, are being designed for. More information can be found here.



The PaeLife Project is co-financed by the AAL Joint Programme (AAL JP) and the following National Authorities in Portugal, Hungary, Poland and France:
AAL Joint Programme              National autorities (FCT, ANR, NCBIR, NIH)

   

Contacts

Microsoft Language Development Center
Rua do Fogo de Santelmo, Lote 2.07.02
1990 – 110 Lisboa
www.microsoft.com/portugal/mldc
Nuno Saldanha
t-nunosa@microsoft.com
+351 925 404 550



The PaeLife Project is co-financed by the AAL Joint Programme (AAL JP) and the following National Authorities in Portugal, Hungary, Poland and France:
AAL Joint Programme              National autorities (FCT, ANR, NCBIR, NIH)

   

Application / Services

AALFred – PaeLife’s Personal Assistant

AALFred offers a simple and unified user interface that integrates and delivers all its features in a unified approach. For instance, AALFred offers an integrated system to manage contacts from several services.

Figure 1 – AALFred’s contacts
Figure 1 – AALFred’s contacts

The user will not have to worry about if the contact is a Facebook contact or an email contact. From the users perspective it’s a contact, agnostic to the place of origin. It can be used to reach the person always in the same manner, regardless of the used service. Another example is the messaging service. If the user wants to send someone a message he doesn’t have to be concern if the message will be delivered using Facebook, Twitter or Email. By providing a single contact point with different technologies, users are no longer forced to learn and deal with the specifics and idiosyncrasies of different tools and apps. Also, unnecessary complexity is hidden and the most important features are made available in an easy and accessible approach.

Figure 2 – AALFred’s Messaging service
Figure 2 – AALFred’s Messaging service

The multimodal human-computer interaction present in AALFred improves even more the usability of the app and makes it a great experience. Users can interact via touch, speech, gestures or simply by using the traditional mouse and keyboard. The modalities can be used synergistically or as an alternative to each other. This allows users to choose the interaction modality that feel more natural to them or that work better in a particular context. For example, users can use speech to ask the system to help them on how to perform an action, or dictate a message instead of typing. All these modalities can be operated uniformly throughout the interface. Similar interactions will be possible in similar situations, even if in different AALFred services (ex: navigating a list of contacts, news or messages works in the same way). This makes the learning on how to use our platform simpler.

Figure 3 – AALFred’s Home Page
Figure 3 – AALFred’s Home Page

AALFred was designed as a windows 8.1 store application that will be available for download through the windows marketplace. In the current version the following services are available:

  • Agenda – Allows the management of calendar appointments and the sending of alerts to users;
  • Contacts Management – All contacts from email, Skype, Facebook and Twitter can be seen and managed in a uniform and integrated way. The contact list will also be enhanced with an activity-aware features to allow the user to see which contacts have been more active in communication. For example the user can immediately see – in a graphical way - which of his friend haven’t been in touch for a while;
  • Messaging – Easy wizard that allows the user to send messages through Facebook, Twitter, Skype or Email using only one unified interface. It informs the user about the visibility of the message (public or private and who will be able to read it). The user only has to write, AALFred will make sure the contact will receive the message;
  • Service Finder – Helps the user to localize services near him or in a specified location. AALFred can localize pharmacies, post offices, ATM machines, bus and train stations or even the nearest police office;
  • News Reader – A service of news feed adapted to all of the PaeLife project countries. All the most important newspapers and magazines blend together in one single interface. AALFred can even read out load the messages if the user wishes so;
  • Weather Forecast – Like the other similar apps, it displays the weather forecast for the following days, but in AALFred we go further. AALFred uses his voice to inform the user about the weather in a detailed and continued manner so they can prepare their day-to-day activities;
  • TV Guide – According to the country where the user is, the TV schedule for the main channels will be displayed in the same interface and can also be read out loud by AALFred;
  • User Preferences – Allows the user to configure the app settings according to his preferences. The user can change the colors of the user interface, adapt the speech recognition to his or her way of talking, change AALFred’s voice and manage all service accounts in one single location. If the user is confused or lost in the configuration, AALFred will be glad to help him and make sure that the best configuration will be set for the user.

The AALFred application and all the features it contains supports multimodality for user interaction using mouse and keyboard, touch, speech and gestures. Naturally the app is also available in all the languages of the PaeLife project: French, Hungarian, Polish Portuguese, and English. A beta version of AALFred as released in August 2014 and we plan to launch the final version in the windows market place in November 2014.

With AALFred ICT’s benefits are directly used to serve the elderly’s needs, helping them to stay social, active and healthy in their own homes for longer periods of time.