23 December 2016 - Spatial, a group of NUS Computing students comprising fourth year CS students Bay Chuan Wei Candiie, Chan Jun Wei, Pierce Anderson Fu; and second year CS student Chia Wei Kang, have secured first place in a competition at the Do You Speak Human? workshop.

Held from 5 to 7 December at NUS, the workshop was organised by SPACE10, a future-living lab and exhibition space in Copenhagen, in collaboration with NUS Enterprise and Inter IKEA Systems B.V.. It allowed students to gain a global and multicultural perspective on conversational technology (CT) and artificial intelligence (AI) through designing meaningful concepts over the course of three days.

There were a total of 12 groups of three to five participants each, at the workshop. The challenge for participants was to explore how IKEA can use CT and AI to foster meaningful interactions with people in two areas: the ‘customer journey’ and ‘life at home’. Groups were assessed based on five criteria: ‘meaningful interaction’, ‘originality’, ‘presentation’, ‘creating better everyday life for many people’, and ‘future-proof’.

After being assigned the topic of ‘life at home’, Spatial worked on how to improve the social lives of the elderly living alone and came up with the idea of integrating CT and AI with a digital photo frame. Named “memome”, which is a portmanteau of “memory” and “me”, the digital photo frame allows children and grandchildren to send photos, videos and other messages to their parents and grandparents, who can in return initiate a conversation or make requests based on what they have received. A major feature of "memome" is its ability to detect a person's emotion or mood and display suitable photos accordingly. For example, when “memome” detects that the user is sad, it will display photos that will cheer him or her up. The frame also allows one to connect to social media without the need to learn a new technology, making it elderly-friendly.

Team leader Candiie said, “The main source of inspiration came from watching various videos of the elderly who live alone and are not technologically endowed. We eventually noticed a common theme of their lives--reminiscing past and present memories via the photos within photo frames and the sense of sadness at not being able to connect with their families, which is often due to the lack of tech skills.” She added that what the team has developed might even inspire a new line of product in IKEA which in turn will improve the lives of the elderly across the globe.

For securing the first position in the competition, the team will be embarking on an all-expenses-paid trip to SPACE10 in Copenhagen next year. They will also be travelling to Älmhult, Sweden, for a guided tour of the IKEA Museum and a visit to the new Business & Innovation department of IKEA.