VoicingElder is a reminiscence storytelling platform for older adults, using interactive avatars to reflect live speech and gestures. Users act out representations of themselves, significant others, or fictional characters at four developmental stages (child, teenager, adult, elder), shaping and reflecting their life history in a playful and engaging way.

The avatar mimics the user’s gestures via Kinect and lip-syncs with the user’s voice via microphone input. VoicingElder detects the emotional contents of live speech via Natural Language Processing Algorithm, and adjusts lighting, sounds, and background images, to facilitate immersion into affective memory.

The project strives to enhance seniors’ quality of life by engaging with their memories and emotions. They can experience their life stories as “thick” documentation, developing new perspectives and revealing deep memory and feeling. These unique histories will help users better communicate intergenerationally with family, caregivers and friends in a playful, engaging format that can be viewed both in live performance and as recordings.

VoicingElder supports the beauty, wisdom and experiential knowledge of older adults’ oral stories, and invites transdisciplinary research in art, gerontology, health, psychology, technology, theater, etc.

VoicingElder is made possible by support from VCUArts and VCU Presidential Research Quest Fund.

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