Challenge Dementia: The pace of change

  • Charlotte Macken

    Charlotte Macken

    Prize Design Manager

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Over the last few years, the Challenge Prize Centre has worked with Essex County Council to explore how the Council can use challenge prizes to deliver its goals. This is part of their wider efforts to embed innovation across their services. Here, Benjamin Mann, one of the team at Essex, updates us on their £100,000 prize: Challenge Dementia.

In a time of austerity when we need to make greater gains with less financial investment, invention reigns supreme. Just as the Cold War fuelled developments in jet engineering at a rate unparalleled before or since, we are today witnessing technological advancement at unprecedented pace and what is more, it is happening all round us.

When we buy our new smart-phone we believe that we have in our hands the very latest in tech thinking. In truth, versions of our favourite smartphone or tablet with capabilities that would blow our minds, already exist and will be drip fed to us all over years to come. Because of the incremental nature of the advancements we see in common day to day tech we might not notice the overall scale of change. As captured by the observations of author and commentator John Mauldin, writing for Forbes this year, it is happening: ‘In the next decade, we’ll see multiple inventions bring even greater changes. The impact won’t be obvious instantly, but the change will come. By 2030, there will be as ho-hum to us as smartphones are today.’

Capitalising on the speed of change in technology is at the heart of the recent Challenge Dementia Prize run by Essex County Council with support from PA Consulting, The Alzheimer’s Society, techUK and the University of Essex. The prize was launched with a package of financial and non-financial support to incentivise new ways to use tech to keep people living with dementia connected to the people and places around them.

Concluding last week, the £100,000 Prize was awarded to The Wayback, a group of designers and film makers who came together over a shared experience of dementia and its impact on family members. The support of the Challenge Dementia package, coupled with effective user engagement in Essex and the passion of the Wayback team, created a synergy and a place where real innovation with a lasting impact could be created.

The Wayback produced a 360° film of the Queen’s Coronation which when viewed on a smartphone through a low tech cardboard VR headset becomes fully immersive. The concept takes cutting edge technology and pairs it with passion and the craft of film-making, to generate and pin point accurate details in every scene and transport the viewer back in time.

‘Venturing back into the past trigger memories and opens up new conversations. They are enjoying themselves and want to talk about it’. (Care professional)

Harnessing the opportunity that advancements in VR and smart phone technology have created, The Wayback and their award-winning solution bridges that gap between tech development and application, bringing immediate improvement to the lives of people living with dementia, their families and carers.

The investment from Essex County Council will now be used to develop a new film based in the County and made available to individuals, care homes and dementia groups.

Benjamin Mann is Senior Strategy Advisor (People) at Essex County Council

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