A wearable memory aid tool that forms part of a “web of care” for sufferers of dementia and Alzheimer’s is being developed by games industry veteran Martin Kenwright through his recently founded digital technology company Starship.
Kenwright is best known for 3D real-time strategy game Wargasm and flight simulator game F-22: Air Dominance Fighter, both developed at his first studio Digital Image Design, as well as Playstation 3 launch title MotorStorm, developed by Evolution Studios.
After selling Evolution to Sony in 2007, Kenwright took time off from the industry to care for family members suffering from dementia.
“I kind of realised there’s something from my business, there’s something that I could do that would not be a magic bullet, but really of make a difference,” Kenwright said in an interview with Factor.
“Before I knew it, I’d filed two patent applications, and the idea essentially was wearable memory. It’s a bit of a sweeping statement and I don’t say it lightly, but it was almost to create the world’s first Alzheimer’s and dementia memory tool,” he explained.
Kenwright was keen not to reveal too many details of the project, known as Forget Me Not, which is still under development, but explained that this would be a wearable product – a “wearable second brain” – that would help the memory-afflicted.
“We could create a technology that could allow people to remember all kinds of objects in the world in-situ, in a way that is completely natural. The idea is of them in a moment of panic being able to recall what they were looking for,” he said.
“It wasn’t that we’ve created some big wearable VR helmet thing, but a proven de-risk, patented game-changing proposition, game technology.”
Kenwright believes that this product, although conceptually strange now, will become a standard wearable for people with memory problems in the future.
“I do generally believe that memory aids will become as common as hearing aids in 5 to 10 years,’ he said.
Starship has taken its time developing the technology, in part to allow chips to become more energy-efficient, something that is important to the technology.
“I can’t really go into hardware and software, but hardware companies have seen it and think its brilliant,” he explained. “A lot of people have been coming up with things like Google Glass that are very Orwellian. Finally someone’s looking at something of genuine use and value and need in this sector that can create a win-win: profit and salvation in one as it were.”
However, Kenwright is keen to stress that this isn’t some miracle solution, and will have limitations.
“What we’ve learned with people with a lot of these afflictions is that if you don’t know how to use some of these devices before you are diagnosed, you’ll never be able to learn again,” he explained.
“I think when things do become ubiquitous like Glass and wearables, in just the same way smartphones and smart devices have, it will be part of the furniture and hence become as common as hearing aids. Memory aids will be one and the same.”
Kenwright sees huge potential for wearables as an aid for Alzheimer’s patients.
“You think Alzheimer’s, memory issues; it’s like the biggest state of concern in the US,” he said. “33 million a year afflicted people, $40bn a year being spent on all these wonder drugs and you’ve kind of got to think, does it all have to be about drugs? Can’t we create tools and devices?”
Body image 1 courtesy of Starship Group.