'Smelly' fans remind people to eat

The fan could be programmed to dispense smells as a memory trigger
Image caption The fan could be programmed to dispense smells as a memory trigger

Researchers at the University of Glasgow are showcasing smart devices to help people lead more independent lives when they have memory problems.

They include an intelligent bowl which knows what is inside it and a 'smelly fan' which reminds people to eat.

Lead researcher Dr Marilyn McGee-Lennon said a fully-wired house could track a person through their day.

It could provide reminders for medication or meals and make sure they remember appointments.

The intelligent bowl has sensors which detect pressure and can be fitted with tiny radio tags.

When tags are also fitted on to household objects, such as the owner's keys and phone, the bowl can recognise what is placed inside it.

It can then be programmed to light up as you leave the house, reminding you to pick up your phone and keys.

Image caption The intelligent bowl has sensors which detect radio tags

The whole device is printed out on a 3D printer, allowing it to be adapted easily to suit different needs.

The team, from the university's School of Computing Science, are also experimenting with smells to act as reminders.

The smells are dispensed by a fan which can be programmed to switch on at certain times of the day.

"You can have any smell you want as long as you can chemically make it," said Dr McGee-Lennon.

"We've played around with pleasant smells, disgusting smells, food smells and memory evoking smells."

Researchers say the fan could be used to remind people that it is lunch-time by dispensing pleasant smells of fresh bread or pizza.

Members of the 'MultiMemoHome' project have worked closely with health and social care professionals as well as a small team of older people, to develop technology which is user-friendly.

Elspeth Harte, from Bothwell in South Lanarkshire, was one of the trial participants.

She said: "I was given a tablet computer and a digital pen to use for several weeks to keep track of my appointments.

"The pen let me write notes in my paper diary and they were automatically transferred to my tablet, which would give me reminders to make sure I remembered to keep my appointments.

"It was easy to use and it was a real, practical benefit to me."

The technology will be showcased at the University of Glasgow on Tuesday afternoon.

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