Open Access Open Badges Research article

Connecting the person with dementia and family: a feasibility study of a telepresence robot

Wendy Moyle1234*, Cindy Jones12, Marie Cooke123, Siobhan O’Dwyer124, Billy Sung2 and Suzie Drummond2

Author Affiliations

1 Griffith Health Institute, Griffith University, 170 Kessels Road, Brisbane QLD 4111, Australia

2 Centre for Health Practice Innovation, Griffith University, 170 Kessels Road, Brisbane QLD 4111, Australia

3 School of Nursing and Midwifery, Griffith University, Nathan Campus, 170 Kessels Road, Brisbane QLD 4111, Australia

4 Dementia Collaborative Research Centre – Carers and Consumers, QUT, Brisbane, Australia

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BMC Geriatrics 2014, 14:7  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-14-7

Published: 24 January 2014



Maintenance of communication is important for people with dementia living in long-term care. The purpose of this study was to assess the feasibility of using “Giraff”, a telepresence robot to enhance engagement between family and a person with dementia living in long-term care.


A mixed-methods approach involving semi-structured interviews, call records and video observational data was used. Five people with dementia and their family member participated in a discussion via the Giraff robot for a minimum of six times over a six-week period. A feasibility framework was used to assess feasibility and included video analysis of emotional response and engagement.


Twenty-six calls with an average duration of 23 mins took place. Residents showed a general state of positive emotions across the calls with a high level of engagement and a minimal level of negative emotions. Participants enjoyed the experience and families reported that the Giraff robot offered the opportunity to reduce social isolation. A number of software and hardware challenges were encountered.


Participants perceived this novel approach to engage families and people with dementia as a feasible option. Participants were observed and also reported to enjoy the experience. The technical challenges identified have been improved in a newer version of the robot. Future research should include a feasibility trial of longer duration, with a larger sample and a cost analysis.

Dementia; Telepresence robots; Communication; Family; Long-term care; Technology