NYU-X: Advancing transdisciplinary innovation with DRESS

Rory Meyers College of Nursing Doctoral Scholar, Lisa Groom, is a Nursing Informaticists advancing DRESS at the NYU-X Lab.

Photo credit: Sapna Parikh

20 August 2018

Author: Dr Winslow Burleson


NYU-X, housed in NYU’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing, empowers departments and centres from across the university and with external collaborators to advance a new generation of transdisciplinary research with broad societal impact. NYU-X provides an environment where anyone can: learn to become citizen scientists, designers, and entrepreneurs; explore new technologies to create prototypes and simulations; visualize data patterns and relationships; interact in virtual worlds; and ask the profound questions that push the boundaries of what is known, and what is possible. We invited them to talk with us about their recent DRESS prototype, which helps people living with dementia by guiding them as they get dressed.

The need for transdisciplinary work

In the increasingly technological nature of nursing and healthcare, the NYU-X Lab’s unique focus on human-centred technology makes developing partnerships between nursing and engineering particularly exciting. Many technological challenges in healthcare are shared with engineers in various fields, and nurses bring their unique skills in data-driven analysis and decision making in clinical and healthcare environments to shared collaborations. These problem-solving and “people” skills are valuable as we seek solutions to the significant challenges identified in traditional Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) disciplines.

The DRESS prototype

Take, for example, the NYU-X “Smart” Dresser (DRESS) system currently under development, which guides people living with dementia as they get dressed. The DRESS prototype was created using a series of iterative participatory design activities by a team of nurses and engineers. The team worked closely with people with dementia, and their caregivers, to develop a prototype that addresses the needs of its users. A five-drawer dresser incorporating a tablet, cameras, and a motion sensor is organized with one piece of clothing per drawer in a sequence that follows an individual’s dressing preferences. The system combines sensors and image recognition systems to track progress as a person dresses, and uses barcodes embedded in each item of clothing to identify its type, location, and orientation, providing guidance throughout the dressing process as well as prompting the individual to correct any errors.

How it works

The caregiver initiates the DRESS system (and then monitor a person’s progress) using a mobile app. The user receives an audio prompt recorded in the caregiver’s voice to open the top drawer, where a prompt simultaneously lights up. The camera then tracks the barcode-embedded clothing; if the person puts an item of clothing on correctly, then the DRESS system prompts them to move to the next step. Conversely, if an error is detected, or a lack of activity is sensed, then the system uses audio to prompt, correct, and encourage.

In addition, a skin conductance sensor bracelet monitors the user’s stress levels and related frustration. If the system detects either continued problems while dressing or an increase in stress levels, then the caregiver is alerted that additional help may be needed. The system also logs progress, errors, and interventions – providing empirical evidence of any changes, and alerting the caregivers of potential issues related to medication, cognitive change, or other causes.“Our goal is to provide assistance to people with dementia – improving their quality of life by helping them to age in place more gracefully, while ideally giving the caregiver a break as the person dresses (with the assurance that the system will alert them as needed)”, said Winslow Burleson, director of the NYU-X Lab. “DRESS holds great promise for both alleviating caregiver burden, and supporting independence for people with cognitive disorders”.

Looking forward

Through transdisciplinary partnerships, the NYU-X team works to eliminate inter-disciplinary barriers and generate strong synergies between research, education, and application. The initiative raises the bar - redefining what is possible by creating knowledgeable, creative, and technologically-literate consumers, creators, and designers. This, in turn, can help healthcare professionals to solve ‘wicked problems’ related to clinical and home care, and to public health. NYU-X seeks to provide a conduit that helps learners reach their goals, empowers them to continue to seek new challenges and continue learning throughout their lives.No individual or lab can do this alone. We seek and develop collaborative partnerships that can leverage a broad range of expertise, creativity, and capacity. NYU-X extends an open invitation to join us as we learn, collaborate and innovate.

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More on the author, Dr Winslow Burleson

Associate Professor New York University

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