Aim of the research

The effects of an acquired brain injury (ABI) can include cognitive impairments, such as problems with memory, organisation and decision making, reduced attention and concentration and lack of motivation and initiation. Use of external aids has been shown to support cognitive function in people with ABI. These can be paper-based tools (like wall-calendars, to-do lists etc.) or electronic tools, also referred to as Assistive Technologies (AT), usually in the form of prompting or reminding systems. Studies show that external aids are not used as often as one would expect, and that there are several barriers that can prevent their uptake and continued use (e.g. accessibility and high cognitive demand).

Voice Assistants (VAs), virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa, and the Google Assistant, can be used for a variety of tasks and provide access to a wide range of online services, operated only through speech. Their non-visual, hands-free interaction can increase accessibility for users with vision problems or physical impairments. Additionally, their conversational User Interface (UI) makes them suitable for performing simple tasks quickly and effortlessly. The above make them a promising technology for people with ABI. On the other hand, a speech-only interface can increase memory demand and interaction with VAs is often problematic.

The purpose of this research is to investigate how VAs can be beneficial for people with cognitive impairments due to an ABI. Our specific objectives are the following: 1) To find the use cases of VAs for people with ABI (in which situations or contexts they would be suitable and acceptable). 2) To explore how people with cognitive impairments due to ABI interact with VAs, and how that interaction compares to other types of external aids. 3) To create a set of guidelines on how to design applications for VAs and how to use them in a rehabilitation context.

There are two studies as part of this research:

1.  Online Interviews

If you choose to participate in this study, you will take part in an online interview which will last approximately 30 minutes. The software used for the interview will be Skype or Zoom. Only voice will be used for the interview (video will be turned off). The interview will be conducted in a semi-structured way, which means that there will be a list of pre-defined questions that you will be asked, but we might come up with other follow-up questions to ask you based on what you say. You will be asked to talk about your injury and its effects on your daily life, and how you use technology for everyday tasks.

2. Voice Assistant – Hands-on Study

For this study we ask participants to use a Voice Assistant (Google Home device) to perform different tasks of varying theme and difficulty (retrieving information online, getting directions to a location and planning a trip). The duration of the study is approximately 40 minutes. The researcher needs to be at the same location with the participant for the duration of the experiment; this location can be the University, the participant’s home or a neutral location (e.g. premises of a service the participant visits regularly).


The participants need to be adults who have experienced an Acquired Brain Injury and who are able to provide informed consent for themselves.

Further information and contact

This research is conducted by a research team at University of Glasgow. If you would like to take part in this study or if you want more information about this study, please email Aris Malapaschas, the lead researcher, on [email protected]