This life-changing app prompts people who forget
Memory loss can be terrifying — finding yourself in a world that doesn’t make sense is the stuff of nightmares.
But nearly half of us will develop some type of memory problem after hitting 65.
What’s more, many others will develop problems earlier, including those living with pre or early dementia, those recovering from stroke, brain injury or chemotherapy.
The good news is that one entrepreneur is on a mission to take a stand against this vulnerable existence.
Her app Prompt empowers people by filling in the gaps — and it’s going to transform lives.
Mary Matthews founded her company Memrica in 2013 after her sister died from Motor Neurone Disease.
Driven by a desire to see memories they’d shared, she first built an app that linked her favourite memories to physical objects:
“Opening the device camera and looking at the object triggered the display of linked memories,” Matthews recalls.
After launch however, Matthews found herself being contacted by a rush of people suggesting it could be used in dementia support.
“People with memory loss often worry that they’re going to make mistake, embarrass themselves or get lost — and so they lose confidence,” she explained.
“They don’t need something to recall the past, they need something to help them live in the present.”
And so the idea for Prompt was born.
How the Prompt app works
With Prompt, users no longer rely on reminders stuck onto fridges or stuffed in pockets. Instead, it acts as a personalised helper you can to turn to if you forget a name, face, what you’re meant to be doing, or even where you’re going.
“The system takes you through step-by-step by asking questions about what you want to remember,” says Matthews. “While touching pictures in reminders brings up everything stored about a person or place.”
Each typed interaction — or spoken interaction if you have an internet connection — pulls up the results the app believes are most useful.
“For example, if the reminder was about a meal, the first information shown would be food preferences or allergies,” says Matthews.
The big idea for the future is that by choosing to share information like her calendar, contacts, and GPS location, your granny can still enjoy the trip to her friends house, without feelings of anxiety about getting lost.
What’s more, friends and relatives won’t need to clip her independence by insisting on giving her a lift, or bombarding her with intrusive visits and phone-calls.
“Family, friends or carers can help manage the system and, with the user’s permission, see what they have planned, where they are and whether there are any changes to their usual activity patterns,” says Matthews.
“Prompt will send alerts if these are detected.”
Prompt doesn’t just ease the negative experience of mental decline, either — it could well help the brain stay healthier by supporting users to maintain regular exercise, a healthy diet and good social connections (all of which are proven to help improve brain health).
Invitations to review recent events, and daily and weekly summaries of activity, can also improve short term and (potentially) long-term memory.
Prompt your family
Right now Prompt is a prototype, but a trial version will be hitting the App Store next month. The business has been backed by the likes of Uber, Innovate UK, Nominet Trust and UnLtd and Memrica is now developing further as part of Telefonica’s Wayra business accelerator.
Today the app has 165 test users, and Matthews is keen for anyone else interested in participating to get in touch.
“In 5 years, we plan to be a household name — the first brand people think of when they need some help with the memory,” say Matthews.
“We want to make sure that people can continue to live life the way they want to and make the most of each day for as long as possible.”
Time to give mental decline the middle finger.