NurMut – Interactive Music System for People with Dementia

Project Information

The aim of the “NurMut” project is to develop an innovative and interactive music platform for people with dementia. It is geared towards patients who either live in nursing homes and rehabilitation centres or who live at home and are being looked after by relatives.
The system can be adapted to both a professional therapeutical setting and to individual leisure time. Three scenarios have been created that provide the basis for the interaction design: First, individual listening to music by the use of streaming services, second, real-time participation in music therapy sessions and third, playing music that relates to the patient’s emotional state. By measuring indicative parameters associated with either stress and hyper activity or lethargy, the system will be able to individually address patients with music based sequences. For the interaction design the challenge is to include the research partners as well as people with dementia into a participative design process, to handle different user interfaces and their different degrees of complexity and to explore motivational aspects of using the system. 

The beneficial impact of music and the participation in music therapy to course of disease has been proven. Our task is now to design access to the technological platform and an enjoyable experience for people with dementia,  their caretakers and music therapists.


In this project we developed three different types of musical interfaces based on our findings. We categorized them as follows:

  1. Referring to historical and commonly known usecases and conjoining them with a digital structure that is invisible for users.
  2. Augmenting familiar objects with an additional layer of music.
  3. Stimulating playful exploration, references to historic devices, symbolic markings and forms are avoided.

Category 1 – Referring to Commonly Known Systems

Before recorded songs were accessible as digital streaming or download offers, the majority of radio and stereo systems for domestic use were equipped with a haptic interface, basically push buttons, rotary knobs and slide controls. According to our observations with the people with dementia, starting and stopping the recordings, controlling the volume etc. were well-known procedures recalled from their long-term memories. Adopting these types of interaction scenarios to a streaming platform delineates our first category.

Category 2 – Augmenting Familiar Objects

For the second category a user-specific photo album is linked to a personalized playlist. The photo album is meant to be filled with individual photographs and songs by relatives or caretakes. Songs are played back by touching a sensor area on each page. Working with conductive ink and paper, the haptic and visual characteristics of an traditional photo book remain. With this approach we propose a remix of analog media with electronic interfaces.

Category 3 – Stimulating Playful Exploration

For handling the third type of interfaces, prior knowledge of technical systems is not mandatory as the control elements are not based on known patterns. References to historic devices and forms are avoided. We emphasized a new correlation of tangible representations of songs and playlists together with soft textiles attached to a basic element. The models call upon a need for haptic investigation by the users.

Project Partners

Wohlfahrtswerk Baden-Württemberg (Stuttgart)
Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Fraunhofer Institut IZM (Berlin)
Synthax GmbH (Gauting)
Actimage GmbH (Kehl)
Tembit Software GmbH (Berlin)
Constin GmbH (Berlin)

The project is funded by the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF).