UGO – social animal

What It Does

The transition between home and the EHPAD is complex for patients with Alzheimer’s, so how can they adapt to their new social and spatial reference points? With its emotional communication, UGO is a social animal used in AAT (Animal-Assisted Therapy).




The Inspiration

The over-sixties population was 12% in 2015 and will increase to 22% in 2050. Social assistance services are moving over to home care for a better quality of life for the elderly in their own homes where they are not destabilised and financial savings are made. However, certain diseases require greater support: dementia, the main characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, affects 7% of the elderly (2015) and will reach 9% in 2050. It is neurodegenerative and the loss of social and spatial reference points accelerates the process: ATT is a communication aid (for the international population, WHO).


How It Works

During the day, UGO is active for residents to see it on its cushion, and goes into sleep mode at night. It is possible to entrust it to the residents, or to a carer, to use it to help promote communication with a resident. By touching different areas of the body or by speaking to it, UGO reacts by changing facial expression and emits birdsong.
It has 6 primary human expressions: joy, surprise, sadness, fear, anger and disgust. Each facial expression is associated with different birdsong expressing the corresponding feeling.
With a remote control, UGO can be set according to the capabilities of its user. It is equipped with a battery, a speaker, a motherboard, sensors and 3 E-Ink® displays for low power consumption. It’s shockproof and different accessories can be used to adapt it to the user’s morphology.




Stages of Development

According to the problematic « How can an elderly person’s social and spatial reference points adapt to a different environment? », I wrote a book « The ancestors of the future », about the evolution of cultural values in relation to new technologies. It has enabled a greater understanding of the issues surrounding the UGO project. Voir le livre ICI
An immersion experience in an EHPAD and an interview with an occupational therapist led to the first animal choices: the type of AAT animal should be selected where people’s choices are not influenced a priori to encourage adoption, like birds.
Then creative psychological work was put into practice in order to organise the 6 categories of emotion. The faces of UGO are human expressions intertwined with the physiognomy of birds. I played the birdsong to sick elderly people for them to match the facial expressions to the sounds.
The creation of 2 prototypes seemed essential to test them in an EHPAD in order to create the final UGO. The first model was thin in appearance and the second round. Inside them, I integrated a Bluetooth speaker: with my smartphone, I was able to make the prototypes sing during testing.
The final UGO model is the result of all the tests and activities in an EHPAD which makes it more relevant.




UGO is a social animal integrated in the practices of AAT, in particular for people with dementia. It encourages social cohesion within an EHPAD between residents and carers.
Some competing products already exist but unlike them, UGO has a low manufacturing cost and can be mass produced since it is devoid of mechanical functions, consisting of standard components and four easily recyclable moulded plastic parts. Thus, it has a low sales price, estimated at €450. UGO is shockproof and is resistant to cleaning products because it is mainly made of silicon.
Easily customisable with its clothes, this product has potential for development by creating other animals based on the same characteristics, thus implementing a common service. UGO requires no knowledge in software development.



Future Plans

At this stage, the continuation of the UGO project is to find technical partners to develop and design it, and also financial partners to invest in manufacturing equipment and its introduction on the market. Psychological studies on a larger scale would be needed to test UGO’s emotional communication as well as tests involving patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Also, UGO could be tested with autistic children, which would provide a follow-up to the project. My goal is to put UGO on the market followed by 3 other species of social animals with the help of business partners.