In this interview with REHACARE.com, Steffen Preuß, the Managing Director of the startup company, talks about the application areas of ichó, reveals the motivation behind the project and describes rewarding moments while testing the little ball in the treatment centers.
Mr. Preuß, how did you come up with the idea for ichó?
Steffen Preuß: When our grandparents fell ill with dementia and became increasingly withdrawn from us and our families, we desperately wanted to help them to engage with us again. Thanks to the "nutzerwelten" research project of the Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences, our founding members met to search for creative and technical solutions for people with dementia. We quickly discovered methods such as basal stimulation or music therapy, which make it possible to engage those who are affected by dementia.
This is how we came up with ichó, an interactive ball to support and stimulate people with dementia. ichó registers all outside influences – for instance, if you throw, catch, touch or simply approach the ball. The responses can be custom created and include glow lighting, vibration, sound, and music.
The fact that we developed this tool together with our own grandparents was one of the key moments in the early stage. The first time I put the ichó prototype in my grandmother’s hand and it played her favorite music by Roy Black (a popular German singer) when she moved it, her eyes lit up and she was back in our world for one moment.
ichó is essentially a customizable tool that opens up a whole new world of possibilities. We use music and fairy tales a lot in our work: ichó either stores a person’s favorite music, which plays prompted by movement or features instruments such as drums, guitars or violins that can be played back triggered by movements.
In the fairy tale of the Frog King, for example, ichó becomes the golden sphere that has to be retrieved from deep inside the well. ichó recognizes this motion sequence, then starts to light up in gold and the fairy tale continues to be told. The fairy tale is either told by ichó, a therapist or by using the previously recorded voices of family members.
These are just some of the examples of how ichó can be used. The applications continue to grow and are developed and evaluated with the help of therapists, nursing staff, and caregivers. The entire development solely takes place in close collaboration with experts and people with dementia.
What’s more, ichó can be easily adapted and set up – by using the computer at the ward via USB or by using an app on the smartphone or tablet.
ichó is intended for therapists, nursing staff, caregivers and primarily families and family members to encourage communication and interaction, provide options and improve the quality of life.
What therapy options does the use of ichó provide for people with cognitive impairments and their family members or the nursing staff?
Preuß: Most importantly, it can speak to the individual needs of the user. A stimulation and support program – based on someone’s favorite music, favorite fairy tale or biography – is more accessible and motivating due to the personal relevance and connection.
In addition to a variety of options for adults in daycare, ichó also supports the work of nursing staff in residential and care facilities. Stress situations involving residents who exhibit challenging behaviors can be much quicker de-escalated by using it. ichó plays songs like "Hoch auf dem gelben Wagen" (a well-known German folk song) and uses a game to deflect and offer a distraction.
First and foremost, ichó is designed to promote and stimulate communication, reunite people and provide a way to share stories, experiences, and impressions.