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. Each Coach has his own expertise, personality and style of coaching; they might not always agree with each other, but they all share a single goal: to support you across every aspect of well-being, including physical, social, cognitive and mental support. The Council members listen to you, inform you, help you to set personal goals and inspire you to take control of your health. Give the council your thoughts, or listen and observe how the individual Coaches exchange their views on numerous issues. Apply your new skills in daily life and if the need arises, contact any of the coaches anytime, anywhere.
COUCH will be empowered by a novel Open Agent Platform, providing core functionalities for the development and deployment of Coaches, including technologies for non-obtrusive interactions between the user and the Coaches. To this end, leading edge spoken dialogue interaction technologies will be provided as embodied conversational agents that will join in conversations with the user. The platform will not be confined to a constrained number of Coaches – rather it will enable developers and innovators to introduce new Coaches that provide additional knowhow and services. Hence, COUCH will enable a new virtual coaching ecosystem, bringing together healthcare services providers with innovators to implement novel ideas. Plans for the sustainability and wider use of its paradigm will be based on the expansion and support of this ecosystem at EU scale, including linking with the partners’ business networks and the FIWARE & universAAL communities.
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?|
|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.