The project’s success will be measured by the achievements defined in the following objectives:
Objective 1 – The project will design, develop and evaluate a Virtual Coaching System (VCS) targeted at older adults that are undergoing life changing events that have a potential negative impact on physical, cognitive, mental, and/or social well-being as well as elderly users suffering from NCDs, specifically Diabetes or Chronic Pain. The main success criteria for the VCS will be its ability to aid the user in preventing expected negative effects on targeted domains (physical, cognitive, mental, social) and disease specific behaviours (medication intake, diet, coping with pain) measured using Huber’s holistic model of health (Huber et al., 2016).

Objective 2 – The project will introduce the new coaching paradigm of the Council of Coaches. In this paradigm, the virtual coach is manifested in a group of virtual characters that each represents a different knowledge domain of the coach. Coaching sessions consist of an interactive group discussion between the user and several members of the council, in which the user and his behaviours are the main topic of discussion. This paradigm’s success criteria are to significantly increase the engagement of the user with the system, and his willingness to actively participate in the coaching sessions.

Objective 3 – In order to provide tailored communication and personalized/targeted coaching actions, the virtual coach must be able to gather a large amount of knowledge regarding the primary user and his context. Traditional, unobtrusive on-body and in-home sensing technologies provide a basic level of information, but have limitations in the type of information that can be obtained. In order to sense the required psychological user related information, the project introduces the concept of the coach-as-a-sensor. Through the use of interactive dialogues, the coach will obtain knowledge about the primary user by engaging in interactions with the user. The success of the coach-as-a-sensor concept is based on its ability to obtain relevant information about the user in a way that is not achievable by state-of-the-art unobtrusive sensing technologies.

Objective 4 – The project will emphasize deep character design based on sound theories from the video game and film worlds. The added value in terms of engagement will be measured and existing methods and guidelines (Isbister, 2006) (Sloan, 2015) will be adopted to the successful design of virtual characters in coaching contexts that have an impact beyond mere entertainment.

Objective 5 – The project will combine smart multimodal sensing technologies to seamlessly and opportunistically measure and model the user behaviour in a comprehensive fashion, including physical, cognitive, mental and social aspects. This holistic sensing and modelling approach not only aims at registering, analysing and inferring each determinant of behaviour in a user-centric manner but also mining the interactions among users and with their physical and virtual environment.

Objective 6 – In order to accelerate open innovation and future developments in the domain of virtual coaching the project will develop the council of coaches on the principles of a generic coaching framework that builds upon and extends existing platforms such as FIWARE and universAAL to provide a set of protocols and definitions for generic, interchangeable virtual coaching modules. The generic coaching framework will be delivered as an open-source extension to existing platforms and the project will lay the groundwork for providing future support in the dissemination of this platform.

Objective 7 – COUCH will develop an ecosystem of services, along with a community of healthcare services providers (including health professionals) and innovators around the project’s open coaching platform, as a means of sustaining and commercializing the project’s results.