Elders, Memory & Data Visualization: Changing Aging Cues with News Media

This project explores memory, embodiment, and the social interactions of elders and others using digital media experiences and simulated virtual reality, which targets memory. Through testing with personal images, and news video from the CBC Newsworld archives, with our current and prospective prototypes, we demonstrate the generation of new conceptual lenses, technological forms and experiences that may enrich the lives of elders and have potential benefits for their families and caregivers, and other communities of participants.

This project investigates how digital technology can stimulate the memories of older adults and improve their cognitive function by using an audio-visual dataset of historical CBC news.

Key Considerations:

  • How might a multimodal, personalized digital media application with embodied, social interaction create a form of “virtualized” reality?
  • Could this experience evoke memories and improve memory recall?
  • How might this experience enhance social connection?
  • How can we build user interfaces that optimally support seniors’ comprehension, use, browsing, and interactions with digital/mobile devices?
  • How can effective 2D/3D aesthetic visualizations be created to give non-expert users a sense of a personal relationship with the data they are observing?Can such new media and VR/AR applications assist elders by enhancing memory, and other cognitive abilities?
  • Can we produce feelings of pleasure and delight in our elder audiences, and enhance this joyful interaction by including caregivers, family and friends?


Premise and Research Question:

With an aging population, there is an increasing need for facilities, activities and technologies that support and enrich the experiences of seniors. Environments that foster mental acuity, cognition, and physical health are in increasing demand.

How might we create applications and digital/virtual experiences that can enhance self-actualisation, and support elder’s abilities, cognition, memory, and social interactions?

Experimental Prototypes:

Our researchers have created and demonstrated 2D and real and simulated 3D aesthetic visualizations to give non-expert users a sense of relationship with the data we are displaying. We have created new media applications that simulate “virtualized” realities, by stimulating memory and recall. These applications may assist elders by acquiring new technical skills, and enhancing memory, mental acuity, personal interaction and communication, and cognitive abilities.

This project is highly multidisciplinary (involving interaction design, mobile technologies, natural language processing, video search, big data, quantified self-actualisation, and data visualisation, gerontology, psychology) and employs multiple prior developments: Postcard Memories, a networked, tablet application that facilitates creative, interactive sharing of family memories, and the CBC Newsworld Holodeck, a gesture-based, immersive installation which  simulates a virtual experience using large digital audio-video multi-screen environments, a gestural interface, and content from 24 years of CBC Newsworld programming.

Participant Studies:

Through user studies and participant observations we have found that when an internalized virtual reality is created in participants, it can have cognitive and affective benefits, which are also replicated in the elderly and those with some memory loss. The analysis of results from a user study with the Postcard Memories application suggests that the application improved connection and communication between elders and their family members, friends, and caregivers. Elder participants agreed that both applications helped them to recall personal stories, which enabled them to communicate more openly with others. Participant observation studies of the CBC Newsworld Holodeck installation have similarly found an improvement in users’ social interactivity and memory recall. Participants have also reported feelings of increased self-actualization, while others have displayed increased conversational opportunities, and interests in technology, and the news content they viewed.

New Developments:

We are now developing a new geographical interface and a touch-screen environment, enabling multi-user data interactions, in collaboration with industry partner GestureTek. Our aim is develop data visualizations methods that will enhance user interaction with specific ‘drilling down’ to keyword sensitive data, to aid participants’ interaction with this multi-year CBC corpus. Our research points to innovation in novel search-and-display techniques which we will continue to refine and develop through iterations of additional ‘days’ in the data corpus, chosen by users for personal significance.

If valid evidence of positive health effects is derived, this could be a commercialisable method and product, delivering health effects to significant numbers. There is further potential to continue development of tools related to video browsing, search-and-display technologies and associated user interface-design, with committed industry partners GestureTek.


Our efforts have yielded delightful results and some valuable insights. We have and will build user interfaces that support seniors’ comprehension and adoption, assisting them to build their social interactions, technological competencies, and feelings of self-hood.

Click here to see Visual Analytics Lab's video on the CBC Holodeck

Click here to see a demonstration of the Postcard Memories Application

See more from our contributors:
Dr. Martha Ladly
Dr. Gerald Penn
Dr. Frank Rudzicz
Kartikay Chadha


Photograph of a  person's hand, using a tablet to selecting images from the CBC News Holodeck
Photograph of two screens and computers displaying the Holodeck setup
Close-up of hand making selections in the Postcard Memories app
Photograph of an individual using the postcard memories app. Their selection appears on a tablet and a large wall mounte screen
Photograph of CBC Newsworld Holodeck - several news clips from different years displayed concurrently
GRAND NCE Funding Logo
Gesturetek corporate logo: blue text on a white background
Friday, September 29, 2017 - 12:00pm
Lab Member: 
Martha Ladly
Embed Video: 

myOCADUnews: September 2017 is out!

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Figurative Painter Christina Sealey's work, featured in Combustus Magazine

Christina Sealey, Self-Portrait, Outside
Monday, September 11, 2017 - 10:30am

The Interior Life of the Observer, an interview with Figurative Painter Christina Sealey (CLTA Assistant Professor, Illustration) is now online at combustus.com

This article by Deanna Elaine Piowaty talks about Christina Sealey's painting, her inspiration and the way her visual and audio work influence each other. 



OCAD U Illustration Graduate Ahn Na Lim on the cover of 3x3's Illustration Annual No. 14

Ahn Na Lim, 3x3 Illustration Annual No. 14
Tuesday, August 1, 2017 - 11:45am

The work of OCAD U Illustration Graduate Ahn Na Lim (2009) will be on the cover of 3x3's Illustration Annual No.14, scheduled for publication December 2017.

In the annual, you’ll also find award-winning work from our 2016/17 students:

Bronze: Andrew Watch (4th year)

Distinguished Merit: Varvara Nedilska (2nd year)

Merit: Andrew Watch (4th year), Ann Sheng (4th year), Lily Snowden-Fine (2nd year)

Honorable Mention: Adam Marin (4th year), Christopher Dupon-Martinez (3rd year), Jisu Lee (3rd year), Varvara Nedilska (2nd year) (2 awards)

OCAD U students, semi-finalists in the Adobe Awards 2017

Adobe Awards Semi-Finalists
Monday, July 31, 2017 - 10:30am

Congratulations OCAD U students, semi-finalists in the Adobe Awards 2017

Carly Tyll
Fine Art - Animation / Motion Graphics

Olivia Wong
Fine Art - Photography

Cindy Lee
Fine Art - Illustration

Jasmine Leung
Social Impact - Web / App / Game Design
#FakeNews 2017 Pandemic

Fylbert Marion Tan
Fine Art - Graphic Design / Print
The Reyes Global Trade Inc. Logo and Patterns

Saadia Kardar
Social Impact - Photography / Print / Illustration / Graphic
With Myself

Rose Ting-Yi Liu
Fine Art - Illustration
A Song Of Summer

Rose Ting-Yi Liu
Fine Art - Illustration
Eggy Sensitive

Erin McCluskey
Social Impact - Photography / Print / Illustration / Graphic 
Disappearing Neighbourhoods

Erin McCluskey
Social Impact - Photography / Print / Illustration / Graphic
Government's Response

Aicha Niazy
Commercial - Web / App / Game Design
Kill The Jaguar Shark - A Wes Anderson Inspired Board Game

Aicha Niazy
Commercial - Print / Graphic / Illustration 
New Perspectives Series Of Talks

Michaila Joy
Fine Art - Graphic Design / Print
Smart Therapy

Yisu Yu
Fine Art - Graphic Design / Print
Fading Culture, West East

Lily Chau
Commercial - Print / Graphic / Illustration 
Multiple Mediums

Michaila Joy
Commercial - Packaging Design
Smart Therapy

Michelle Zhen
Commercial - Packaging Design
Shimizu Sake

Aqil Raharjo
Social Impact - Photography / Print / Illustration / Graphic  
A One Of A Kind Gift Set For My Newborn Niece

Aliya Ghare
Social Impact - Photography / Print / Illustration / Graphic
Highway Of Tears

Aliya Ghare
Social Impact - Photography / Print / Illustration / Graphic
Moth Holes

Ka Young Lee Lee
Fine Art - Illustration
Odd One In

Salwa Majoka
Fine Art - Illustration
Technological Sanctuary

Jon Iñaki
Commercial - Print / Graphic / Illustration
Sigil For Strong Bones

Ashley Proulx
Commercial - Print / Graphic / Illustration
Design As Experiment

Ashley Proulx
Social Impact - Photography / Print / Illustration / Graphic
Data Visualization - Child Labour

Aqil Raharjo
Commercial - Packaging Design
Knots Tie Neckwear Packaging

Aqil Raharjo
Commercial - Packaging Design
Figo Vegan Skin Care For Men

Aqil Raharjo
Fine Art - Graphic Design / Print
Quotes By Jessica Walsh: An Homage

Aqil Raharjo
Commercial - Print / Graphic / Illustration
The Ultimate Donuts Subway Map

Regan O'Connell
Fine Art - Graphic Design / Print
"Perspective" 3D Alphabet


To see the full list of semi-finalists click here.



























myOCADUnews April edition is out!

Read the latest news and information for OCAD U students.

myOCADU News March edition is now available!

myOCADUnews shares news and info to keep students connected at OCAD U. 

OCADU Illustration student, Andrew Watch selected as Runner-up for Creative Quarterly 47

Andrew Watch CQ47
Andrew Watch CQ47 ii
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 - 5:15pm

Creative Quarterly 47 has selected selected as Runners-Up 2 pieces by Fourth Year Illustration student, Andrew Watch.





Lynne Heller's work reviewed by Gil McElroy

Lynne Heller
Friday, February 24, 2017 - 5:45pm

Well know art critic and curator Gil McElroy reviewed the work of CLTA Assistant Professor Lynne Heller  in The International Sculpture Center’s blog ‘re:sculpt’. -

" Three Cloths inhabits the littoral region that is border blur, shifting and flickering back and forth between aesthetic realms we’ve long cleaved apart so as not to contaminate one with the other, but never unequivocally settling into one. There is an un-ease to the work, a resistance to categorization."


You can read the full text here.


Off Course, TO DO Festival - Best of Toronto Design Week by Azure Magazine

Off Course Stein Wang
Friday, January 27, 2017 - 11:15am

Congratulations to Industrial Design and Graphic Design students that presented works-in-progress (prototypes and full-scale models) as part of the Toronto Design Offsite Festival. 

You can read the full article here.