Tuesday, September 30, 2008

SenseCam: A Retrospective Memory Aid


The authors of this paper illustrate the findings of the initial clinical trial of SenseCam, a small form factor camera which is worn around the neck and records still images both at regular intervals and when the device's sensors are stimulated. This creates a pictorial record of events that happen in the wearer's immediate proximity. The motivation for this record is to aid in rehabilitating memory loss sufferers. The trial presented in this paper has shown a marked improvement in the cognitive ability of the test subject. However, further clinic trials are required before a definitive statement about its merits can be made.

I think that one of the most significant insights the creators of SenseCam had was that the success of the device relied critically on a small, compact form factor. Earlier incarnations, which utilized mobile PCs carried in a backpack, would be too unusable to have a net benefit for a patient. Ease of use is of vital importance. Another important point in the discussion of the clinical results is that the authors make the distinction between the patient remembering the events recorded by the SenseCam instead of remembering seeing the pictures it recorded in previous sessions. Although the patient claims to be remembering the actual events, I believe the experimental method could be altered to assert this claim more concretely.

The SenseCam represents a simple enough product, and it seems obvious that it could benefit a patient suffering from a memory dysfunction. However, before it can claim to out perform other methods, I believe further clinical study, under more controlled circumstances, needs to be carried out (it should be noted that the authors freely admit this, it is just being restated here for completeness). Primarily, more patients need to be examined; a single case study is not sufficient. In addition to increasing the number of subjects, the number of 'important events' recalled by each subject should be increased as well, preferably to some statistically significant level.

In addition to a small sample size, there is a strong possibility that the results for the single given sample, recorded by Mr. B, may have been skewed, perhaps even unintentionally, due to the nature of Mr. B's relationship with the subject. A more pure result would be obtained by using an impartial third party to administer the tests to Mrs. B.

No comments: