The Project

Council of Coaches is a research project funded by the European Commission under the EU Horizon 2020 Framework. The project was selected for funding based on a proposal submitted in January 2017 to the call for proposals topic “Personalised coaching for well-being and care of people as they age” (PM-15) under the Societal Challenge “Health, demographic change and well-being” (SC1). The project will run for a period of three years, from September 2017 to August 2020 and will be executed by an international Consortium of research and industry partners.

The Project At a glance…

Despite the proliferation of ICT solutions for personalized healthcare, there is still no easy way to provide older adults with integrated coaching services. Council of Coaches (COUCH) introduces a radically new virtual coaching concept based on multiple autonomous, embodied virtual coaches, which form together a personal council that fulfills the needs of older adults in an integrated way…

Continue to “The Project at a Glance” >>

The Call

Council of Coaches was among the 8 out of 187 submitted proposals that was awarded the Grant (Grant Agreement No. 769553) within the Horizon 2020 call for proposals. The call SC1-PM-15-2017 titled “Personalised coaching for well-being and care of people as they age“, opened in September 2016 and closed on January 31st, 2017. The topic of the call is detailed below:

Specific Challenge:

The activity aims at developing and validating radically new ICT based concepts and approaches for empowering and motivating people in need of guidance and care due to age related conditions, in cooperation with their carers where relevant, and to help them improve and maintain their independence, functional capacity, health status as well as preserving their physical, cognitive, mental and social well-being.

Scope:

Proposals should develop a proof of concept of radically new solutions for a personalised “virtual coach”, building upon intelligent ICT environments, access to relevant physiological and behavioural data, new forms of accessible interaction based on tangible user interaction concepts, open platforms and emotional computing. Usability and ease of user interaction should be essential design elements of the “coach”.

The “coach” should provide personalised advice, guidance and follow-up for key age related issues in daily life which impact the person’s ability to remain active and independent, for example diet, physical activity, risk avoidance, preventive measures, lifestyle and activity management, leisure, social participation and overall wellness. The goal should be to preserve physical, cognitive, mental and social well-being for as long as possible and to facilitate interaction with carers (where relevant).

Solutions should build on and apply multi-disciplinary research and include intelligent algorithms beyond state-of-the-art capable of reasoning, autonomous learning and adaptation to personal needs, emotional and behavioural patterns, conditions and preferences as well as the users’ living environment and their social connections. Solutions should be integrated seamlessly in existing every-day activities and provide desired information in fast and efficient manner. Attention theft by ICT (consuming too much of the user’s time) should be avoided.

Proposals should address relevant ethics and gender aspects and should also assess related legal and regulatory questions such as ownership of data, data protection/privacy, liability and consumer protection. It is crucial that users are involved and drive the innovation at all stages of design and development, including user acceptability, satisfaction and impact in realistic settings.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 3 and 4 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

For additional information, please visit the official topic page for SC1-PM-15-2017.

An example…

To illustrate the objective of the Council of Coaches project, consider the example dialogue below between four virtual coaches and a fictive user “Bob”…

Alice: Have you considered trying to quit smoking, Bob?
Ben: Quit smoking… quit drinking, quit doing all the fun things in life! Why don’t you quit whining?
Florence: What a stupid thing to say, Ben! Next thing you’re going to tell us all about your grandfather who smoked all of his live and lived to be a 100 years old!
Ben: Well, for your information… Florence. My grandfather was a heavy smoker and he did turn out to be 94 years old, so there.
Richard: Florence, Ben, cut it out, this isn’t about you or your grandfather, we are talking about Bob, perhaps he has anything to say here?
Bob: (Say Nothing)
Alice: Well, you know that smoking does not guarantee an early death. But Bob here recently got diagnosed with COPD, a condition that is almost always caused by long-term smoking. Although it may not be easy, it is very important to try and quit as a very first step in dealing with this.
Ben: Sure, I guess, you are the expert.
Richard: And it has a positive effect on your taste! Think about all the delicious things we could cook together and how excellent all the flavors will work out.
Bob: I am trying but find it difficult.

What this example portrays, is that even without any active participation of the user (e.g. the point where Bob chooses to say nothing), the discussion can continue with some arguments and background on the topic of smoking cessation. At the end of the example, when the user finally becomes engaged (“I am trying but find it difficult.“), our COPD Coach, Alice, will have to opportunity to continue the dialogue with e.g. advice on how to stop smoking.

Features

The Council of Coaches project will innovate on a number of key technologies. Please find some of the feature highlights below, and on our Features Page.

head-green Virtual Coaching System
The main objective of the project is to develop a virtual coaching system that can assist older adult users in the areas of physical, cognitive, mental and social well-being. Diabetes and Chronic Pain are two use cases that will gain our specific attention.
head-yellow Sensing and Profiling
Our system must learn to understand the user, his behavior and his context in order to provide personalized coaching. Through sensing and profiling the system builds up a knowledge base that the virtual coaches use to drive their coaching actions.
head-purple Dialogue Management
Dynamic, automated conversations between a virtual coach and a human user. As if that isn’t complicated enough, Council of Coaches takes dialogue management to the next level by introducing a multi-party automatic dialogue system in which multiple virtual characters can interact with a human user.
head-blue Human-Computer Interaction
Experience a radically new concept of human-computer interaction. Step into the virtual council meeting room, and join a special session with a team of expert coaches. On today’s agenda: you. The project will focus on bringing alive a memorable cast of characters and pushing the boundaries of intuitive user interaction and user experience.