Industrial - Honours


Connect is a smart AI system for people with dementia in aged care facilities. It is designed to encourage and enable independent interactions that stimulate and empower. The significance of Connect, is in its ability to be accessed from the cloud, where family can upload videos and recordings for the person with dementia to watch in real time. The purpose of connect is to create moments of clarity through family.

“…It just gives her such an uplift. To see me come in. It doesn’t have to be a real long visit, so long as you go in.”

Family Member of a Person with Dementia (PARTICIPANT 3 from research)
A person with Dementia in a wheelchair reaching out to hold the rail on the side of the hall to independently move.

Reality of Aged Care

Dementia is used to define disorders that affect the brain through a collection of grouped symptoms that affect cognitive functioning in normal everyday tasks. It is one of the major causes of disability with more 50 million people worldwide who are diagnosed with dementia. The research into dementia and aged care, found a range of pain points from the care experienced to the impact of COVID-19 and it’s devasting repercussions.

In Australia alone, the aged care system is currently under the spotlight and being held accountable for overall lack of care. It has been made clear, that the need for immediate action and change has never been more crucial. At present, from both the research and personal observations, residents in the dementia ward are leftalone in their rooms for long period of times, slowly deteriorating away.
slowly deteriorating away. While rooms may have personal touches or TV that play in the background, there is nothing that directly interacts with the resident. Connect changes this by catering to the resident.

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Connect product is situated on the bedside table for easy access. Next to a glass and jug of water.

Purpose of Connect

It was important that the design solution directly addressed one of the most concerning issues identified, the rapid deterioration in Dementia due to the isolation in aged care facilities. The aims and objectives were targeted specifically to address the issue of isolation, lack of social interactions and involvement with family and friends. From this, the project focused towards designing a product that would distract or entertain residents from the isolation or loneliness. By focusing and creating a system that is personalised to the individual, it is hoped that re-connecting residents with family and culture would improve or trigger moments of clarity. Where the direction for the project would focus on the constant loneliness and lack of stimulation by keeping the connection to family open through a personable approach. The design would ultimately focus on empowering a person with dementia through encouragement of interactions.

Elderly lady with early onset dementia cooking in the kitchen with her Connect device playing music or playing videos of family etc.

What is it?

Connect is the first product to utilize a smart AI system that connects family for people with dementia. Heavily inspired by generational products for familiarity and to appeal to the older generations, Connect was created to relive and recreate memories that make an impact. It’s a portable device that stores visual and verbal reminders categorised into the following: home, family, nature, and music. By connecting to the cloud, family can constantly upload and share videos of their life into the categories, providing the user with both the choice and control to choose what they want to watch. More importantly, through sharing videos, the users become involved and are kept connected with their families.

For personalisation, during the initial set-up, the system is set to be attuned to the user from account details to voice recognition to display and wallpaper settings. It’s designed to guide and support the user to independently interact with the device and explore at their own time. With every interaction, the Connector system collects data such as favourite or most viewed videos for a better experience. Essentially, Connect bridges the distance when family is separated, so a person with dementia is always connected in some way.

Connect device on coffee table next to couch.

Connect in context

I’m trying, I’m trying…

Ian Armstrong (Advanced dementia)

How does it work?

Connect is designed to be a constant companion for people with Dementia. To grow with users and support them while connecting family as if they are right next to them. Within the context, there are two main scenarios in which Connect is situated, within the home and the aged care facilities. The ideal scenario is that a person with dementia is diagnosed early, and an Occupational Therapist or health worker prescribes the user with Connect as a tool to help with their cognitive functioning. It’s designed to be a tool that can help stimulate them both mentally and physically through the interactions. A memory box that can be used to store videos and songs that will help them as their dementia progresses. It not only connects them but keeps them grounded when the transition from the home to aged care or from one ward to another. Connect is meant to be a constant for people with dementia that goes where they go, always keeping them connected to family and friends.

Within the aged care Environment


Eldery person with dementia sitting drinking water while they listen to Connect on the tray in front of them.

Connect System & Interface

The Connect system was designed with a very basic layout, categorised into four options; home, family, music and nature. Besides the account and home settings to turn off touch screen or camera etc, the system was backed up with an AI; Connector. Through Connector, the product is designed to learn a resident’s behaviours through interactions. This means, over a period of time, the system will be able to anticipate the users moods and needs by suggesting video content at certain times. The system is also created as an extra layer of support and guidance for people with dementia, to help direct them through interactions where needed.

The user interface was simplified for easy interactions that stimulated the brain. The power of attorney or family member would initially help set up Connect for the intended user, input the account information, upload beginner videos and set Connector to recognise the user’s voice. From here the interactions would than be facilitated by the Connector for familiarity and to encourage the user to explore Connect. The interface is simplified to match product icons and symbols on buttons for an intuitive experience.

System in Play

Elderly man with early onset dementia on a laptop with their connect device nearby.


Form & Handle

Connect is designed with two main parts; the front with the handle is injection moulded as one piece and the back is made from cedar wood that clips into place. The handle is designed to provide extra grip and portability for the device. The back is instrumental in holding and securing the internal components such as the PCB boards, surround sound speaker and LCD Display screen. Together, the main body creates a presence that is noticeable and portable.

Dials & Buttons

Connect was also designed with dials and buttons that mimic the 60’s/70’s style. The buttons were created for tactility with international standard icons for familiarity. All buttons are created from aluminium with a chrome plated finish to fit the style. The left and right buttons were designed with a slightly more vintage feel to set itself apart from the other buttons. The volume dial, for differentiation from the channel dial, was created with an outer cedar wood layer to also match the back of the model. The on/off button is a simple flip switch, similar to previous products. It was important that the interface matched the icons to simplify the experience.

Wireless Charging & Connectivity Technology

In order for users to connect to the device, Connect has both Bluetooth functionality and Wi-Fi for a wireless connection to enable family members to upload onto the cloud and directly into the categories on the interface. This is done by accessing and logging into the users account to make the upload.

In regards to the charger, the housing materials were specifically chosen for their conductive ability for wireless charging – adding more stability and ease of use to the product. The charging mat is an aluminium based charger that can conduct through both wood and plastic. The idea is that the charger, will be assembled (charging cord and mat connected and plugged into an electric port) and always stationed within the user’s bedroom by family.

Screen & Stability

Connect has a touch-sensitive screen, that through the settings can be turned on or off for the carers or depending on the users cognitive functioning. The screen is circular to make it easier for the user to visually process and focus on what they see. The circular screen shape also made it possible to equally balance the speaker grills around the screen for a more polished sound and completed the aesthetic look.

When users interact with the product, as well as visually seeing a clear image, it was also important that the product could remain stable when touched. Hence, Connect was designed with tactile grips on the bottom that would help stabilise the product to the table due to the friction caused when moved.

Connect Experience


It was important to keep the packaging simple but also display and showcase the model. To create packaging that can be used to store it, keep it safe and remind the users it’s there. Hence, the display box was the best way to show the model and give it more presence. Included in the packaging was also a personal note addressed to the user with login details, instructions for use and safety, wireless charger and cable and the block sponge for the model to safely sit.

Personal Address & Quick Guide

I’m never seen my father so alert before…he has never reacted so much to anything…

Connect device on the bedside table

Final Outcome

It all came down to making a difference. Connect is the solution I hope will change the aged care system in Australia for the better, where the quality of life for residents and users with dementia improves. The aim is to empower and connect family with residents to distract them from the isolation and shatter the stifling silence that follows through the halls in the dementia ward. The nature of Connect was designed to engage and stimulate users to an alert and active state, that challenged both their hand and eye coordination. Connect is the solution to improving people with dementia’s cognitive functioning and emotional being by involving family through a simplified device. Through Connect, residents with (and without) dementia can now have unlimited access to family.

Final Presentation

I want to bring the outside world within and make a difference. I want my grandfather to know he’s not alone and that we are always thinking of him even when we aren’t physically there. I hope to fill the silence.

Leena Al Sallakh (Granddaughter of Ian Armstrong)
Connect on a coffee side table in the living room where the family congregate

Leena Al Sallakh

Leena is an industrial designer with a deep appreciation for the design process. She is extremely passionate about designing for accessibility to create a universal impact through a human-centered approach. Her goal is to make good designs that push the boundaries from a cultural influence and ultimately empower the users.