UH Hilo participates in virtual program addressing Japan’s aging population

Date: Wednesday, May 29, 2024
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 932-7669

For Immediate Release

A University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo alumna and two faculty members participated in an innovative online program this spring with students from three Japan universities and the University of Northern Colorado focusing on the topic, “AI and the Future of an Aging Society.” The four-week program, held February 26 - March 23, was offered virtually using the VR education platform Virbela.

Alise Jackson received her BA in Kinesiology and Exercise Science in December 2023 and participated in the program because of her interest in the intersection of AI and physical therapy.

“Through this experience I learned to be more open-minded when it comes to resources and less fearful of AI,” Jackson said. “Being able to represent Hawaiʻi was rewarding alone, but also learning to use a new resource that I was hesitant to try before was also an eye-opening and rewarding experience. I would recommend anyone join if they have the opportunity to do so.”

Ozan Atalag, chair of the Kinesiology and Exercise Science Department, and Todd Shumway, director of Global Exchange, participated in the program as mentors.

“The opportunity for genuine and focused cross-cultural communication made this program unique,” Shumway said. “Due to the requirement for the students to collaborate on a virtual product and then present it publicly, the students had to be creative and persistent in their attempts to bridge language and cultural barriers with their partners.

“The enthusiasm of the groups was obvious as they were not only learning valuable skills for product development, but also sharing the creative task of coming up with an interesting and useful product,” he added.

The proposed products included an AI companion in the form of an orangutan, who could assist the elderly with health and exercise monitoring and be a companion to ease mental health issues faced by those living alone. Another proposed product was a cooking assistant who could monitor diet and provide recipes and cooking guidance. Several groups also proposed applications to facilitate communication with medical and counseling professionals.

Organized through Kansai University’s Japan hub for Innovative Global Education (JIGE) and the online education company Ludas Labs, students and faculty from Kansai University’s partner universities were invited to participate. Students were placed in groups with their counterparts from the other universities and tasked with creating a product using AI technology to address issues facing a rapidly aging population in Japan. The mixed groups included students from Kansai University, Chiba University, and Osaka Metropolitan University in Japan and UNC and UH Hilo in the U.S.

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