Assistant Robot Enhances the Perceived Communication Quality of People With Dementia: A Proof of Concept

Di Zhou (Corresponding author), Emilia I. Barakova, Pengcheng An, Matthias Rauterberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Almost all older people with dementia have progressive communication difficulties, which lead to increased social isolation and negative emotions. Thus, providing communication assistance for them is essential. This paper explores the feasibility of using social robots to assist older people with dementia in their face-to-face communication with others. We designed the behavior of a humanoid Pepper robot and made a Wizard of Oz prototype that the robot can serve as a personal memory assistant. The robot stores personal information for older people and assists in their communication through voice and screen display. In a video-based study with 88 participants, we investigated the effects of this assistive robot from a third-person observer perspective. Data were collected and analyzed using both three-way MANCOVAs for quantitative analysis and conventional content analysis for qualitative data. The results revealed that, by providing memory support, the robot significantly improved the observer's perceptions of an older person with dementia, including her perceived communication ability and performance, and personal image. Meanwhile, the communication is perceived to be significantly more effective when the robot assisted an older person. The willingness of others to communicate with more senior people also increased accordingly. Based on these findings, we present guidelines that may inform the design and development of communication assistant robots for older people with dementia.

Original languageEnglish
JournalIEEE Transactions on Human-Machine Systems
Issue numberX
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Communication assistant robot
  • Dementia
  • Distance measurement
  • enhance communication quality
  • human-robot interaction
  • Interviews
  • Man-machine systems
  • memory support for dementia patient
  • Robots
  • Sociology
  • Statistics
  • third-person perspective


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