National dementia prize spurs ground-breaking innovations

Challenge Dementia announces its 2018 winner - The WayBack virtual reality film series

The £100,000 prize was won by developers of The WayBack virtual reality film series

The winner of the £100,000 2018 Challenge Dementia prize has been announced.

The cash was awarded to The WayBack, a virtual reality film series designed for those living with dementia and their carers in order to trigger shared memories and spark conversations.

Through virtual reality, The WayBack recreates popular moments from the past, taking viewers back in time and fully immersing them in the sights and sounds.

The WayBack was one of nine projects that made it to the finalist stage of the prize, which is pioneered by Essex County Council and supported by Nesta alongside partners PA Consulting, Alzheimer’s Society and Tech UK.

Essex has taken a national lead in developing this challenge prize, which has really shown how the experience of people with dementia and their family carers can be improved through innovative initiatives

Co-founder of The WayBack, Dan Cole, said of its success: “The Wayback project is something deeply personal to all of us and winning was the result of three years hard work, but none of it would have happened without the literally hundreds of people who have supported us along the way.

“It’s completely heartbreaking to lose someone to this disease; much more cruel than if they were taken quickly.

“The person is still right there, in front of you. All we wanted to do is to create something to find a way back to them; to bring them back into our homes, and our hearts again. To see their faces light up once more, to see them for the person they are.

“That’s why this little box exists; to simply bring joy to the person and those around them.

“Winning this prize has given us the validation and energy that we needed to know that we're on the right track, and to keep us going.”

As the older population increases, dementia has become one of the most-significant health and care issues facing the world.

In the UK it is estimated that 850,000 people live with dementia and someone develops the condition every three minutes.

The prize model has successfully demonstrated that, by stimulating creativity and ingenuity, great ideas and products underpinned by technology and innovation can be developed for societal good

There is currently no cure and this prize is about finding ideas that can support individuals with dementia to maintain their identity and remain connected to the people and places around them for as long as possible.

And the panel of expert judges was so impressed by the high quality of the ideas pitched in this year’s competition that they awarded a ‘Highly Commended’ prize of 25,000 to HowDoI?, which uses the same technology as contactless credit cards and a smartphone, Refresh by HowDoI? to create bespoke video instructions to help with everyday tasks such as making a cup of tea.

Councillor David Finch, leader of Essex County Council, said: “ Challenge Dementia is a significant milestone in the UK for how we can utilise technology to improve the lives of people living with dementia.

The standard of entries was so high, the judges also awarded a Highly Commended prize of £25,000 to HowDoI, which helps with everyday tasks

“The prize model has successfully demonstrated that, by stimulating creativity and ingenuity, great ideas and products underpinned by technology and innovation can be developed for societal good.

“We are proud to have pioneered the first challenge prize of its kind and hope that we can inspire others to develop additional challenge prizes and effective solutions to support dementia care in the future.”

Challenge Dementia is a significant milestone in the UK for how we can utilise technology to improve the lives of people living with dementia

Professor Alistair Burns, chairman of the judging panel, added: “Essex has taken a national lead in developing this challenge prize, which has really shown how the experience of people with dementia and their family carers can be improved through innovative initiatives.

“The array of ideas was superb and it was a very fine decision to choose one winner. The field of dementia has been greatly enhanced by Essex’s vision.”

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