Virtual Assistant to Improve Self-care of Older People with Type 2 Diabetes: First Prototype

  • Susana Buinhas
  • Ana Paula Cláudio
  • Maria Beatriz Carmo
  • João Balsa
  • Afonso Cavaco
  • Anabela Mendes
  • Isa Félix
  • Nuno Pimenta
  • Mara Pereira GuerreiroEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Communications in Computer and Information Science book series (CCIS, volume 1016)


Diabetes has significant clinical, economic and humanistic implications, both at a national and global level. Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is highly prevalent in older people. This paper describes a first prototype of an application intended to facilitate self-care of older people with T2D, supplementing appointments with healthcare professionals. The application is based on a virtual assistant with an anthropomorphic representation. The virtual assistant is capable of speaking and expressing emotions through facial and body animations; it has been designed to act as a relational agent, developing long-term relationships with users. It targets adherence to medication, physical activity and diet, tailoring the intervention to users’ needs and characteristics. The Behavior Change Wheel was chosen as the theoretical approach to behaviour change and supports dialogue content. Built for Android devices, the architecture of the application first prototype includes a core component, a dialogue creator, a speech generator and a database. The first tests on the application contents and usability were conducted in a sample of ten academic nurses with expertise in primary care. Overall, these tests yielded a positive opinion, as well as suggestions for improvement. On-going work includes testing the first prototype with older people with T2D plus health professionals in primary care units of the Portuguese National Health Service, and incorporating a rule-based context-sensitive dialogue manager, which is expected to convey a more flexible dialogue flow.


Virtual humans Relational agents Health care Behavior change Type 2 diabetes Older people 



The authors are indebted to Adriana Henriques and Isabel Costa e Silva for their work in the VASelfCare project, as team members.

The authors express their gratitude to the advisory board members and the academic nurses who participated in the tests.

This work was supported by FCT and Compete 2020 (grant number LISBOA-01-0145-FEDER-024250).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de Biossistemas e Ciências Integrativas, Faculdade de CiênciasUniversidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.Faculdade de FarmáciaUniversidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  3. 3.Unidade de Investigação e Desenvolvimento em Enfermagem, Escola Superior de Enfermagem de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  4. 4.Centro de Investigação Interdisciplinar Egas Moniz (CiiEM)Instituto Universitário Egas MonizAlmadaPortugal
  5. 5.Escola Superior de Desporto de Rio MaiorInstituto Politécnico de SantarémSantarémPortugal

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