IBM has partnered up with a European consortium for a project that aims to "help support active aging and prevent cognitive decline in the elderly population".
The HERMES Cognitive Care for Active Aging project (although it's presented acronymically, I have no idea what 'HERMES' is supposed to stand for) sounds pretty darn exciting. The idea is to develop a "home of the future... equipped with microphones and video cameras to record conversations and experiences at the user's discretion", along with a mobile device to record "conversations, experiences, location coordinates, dates and times outside the home".
"All the information will be stored, processed and analysed to help augment the person's memory", says the press release. The information will then be used to jog the user's memory if they so desire, and provide reminders for day-to-day tasks like buying coffee or whatever. You can read the whole spiel here.
This all sounds like a brilliant idea (although, since the whole point is to provide support to those with diminishing cognitive capabilities, recording all this stuff "at the user's discretion" sounds like a concept that could potentially run into difficulty). Such uses of technology are indeed the way of the future. I can even see this kind of thinking leading to an elderly person being able to stay in their own home with greater security rather than having to move into a old-age home.
However, the development of this kind of technology is also.... well, frankly disturbing. It all sounds a bit like the "life recorder" technology that Microsoft and others having been working towards for some time now. While it all makes sense for some elderly people, can we trust that this will be the only application? Some people quite like the idea of everything they do being recorded for posterity. I'm not one of them, keen Facebook user though I may be.
Dunno. Maybe I'm just being paranoid. Either way, if HERMES really does improve the quality of life for aging folks, then at least some good will come of it.