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Music for Memory

System for personalised music therapy


An estimated 5.4 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Personalized music helps these people to remember who they are. We identified the opportunity for improving the quality of life and relationship of Alzheimer’s patients and their families through sound. Currently, Ipod shuffles are given out in nursing homes to Alzheimer's patients, however an opportunity exists for improving the user experience to be more tangible and manageable with a user-centred approach.

Remind is a system for Alzheimer’s patients and their families. Alzheimer’s patients are connected with their families through a personalised music device and mobile application. The device is used by the patient and managed by their family members or caregivers through the app. When the patient does not remember a face, a sound is used in place to “remind” the user and trigger memories. When the patient is alone, the device acts as a companion.


Research and inspiration from the Alive Inside documentary

GROUP PROJECT  Darja Wendel, Lina Trulsson, Emily Keller, Miglė Padegimaitė   I   DURATION 2 weeks   I   Umeå Institute of Design

 PUBLICATION  Interaction Design Awards 2015, Empowering, Finalist (2015),  Featured on Fast Company (2015), 

Student runner-up at the Core77 Design Awards 2014, Social Impact category. View the entry here.

Concept video

One advantage of Remind is how the system responds to the needs of the patient and the family. It takes into consideration the memory loss, isolation and in some cases the decreasing ability to speak associated with Alzheimer's, but as well the decreasing visual, hearing and gripping abilities of elderly people. Therefore, the system reminds the patients of the device and links personalised music to people, amplifying the positive effects of music therapy with tangible feedback and an easy to use interface.

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One of the main differences between other projects and our “remind” concept is the system around the device. Since personal music is needed to be effective as music therapy it is crucial to create a database where the needed songs and memories are stored. It not only provides a database for the user, but it also enables the loved ones to keep in contact with the patient, feel involved, and receive information and statistics on the well being of the patient. It allows them to send voice messages to the user, and also helps the caregivers to recreate history with the user, interact with each other, and share memories. When the device is placed next to a mobile phone with the Remind mobile app installed, it plays the preset song for this specific person. This allows a very personal connection between visual and sound triggers. After the initial recognition song the device plays the memory playlist of that person, in a volume that allows a conversation and enhances the experience with a vibration to the music. The effect of the music not only helps with the recognition of people, but also enables the patients to talk and communicate better. The combination of the device and the app can enhance the contact between the patient and their loved ones and caretaker, as well as improve the mood of the patient and help them to remember and interact with others. For the family and other caregivers, the app offers a psychological help, showing that they are not alone, and improves the quality of their interactions by providing a reminder of the person they loved and still love. Keeping in mind that the disease is progressive, we imagine that the mobile application may be used on its own as a music player in the early stages. Should conditions worsen, the physical device can intervene as a companion with simplicity, ergonomics, and usability playing a more important role. In 2013, over 15.5 million family members and friends provided over 17 billion hours of unpaid care to those suffering from Alzheimer’s. The nursing homes also could benefit from this service, because it allows them to operate smoother with a very personalised music therapy involving the family and friends in a more effective way. It is important for them to get as much help as possible, therefore “remind” focuses on the patient as well as on the people around them and their interaction with each other.


During this two weeks we had the possibility to work closely together, creating both a model and a system, including an App and building a test to analyse the tactile feedback of music. You can see people´s reaction to the vibration sensor in one of our mock ups here on the right.

" This feels alive!"




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To find out how to design the sounds for Remind we created sound boards, describing the feeling and the features.

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User research: visiting our actress and persona, learned a lot about her memories and how they are connected to music