Assistant Professor Jina Huh-Yoo Awarded VoiceXML Forum Grant for Research to Benefit Dementia Caregivers

VoiceXML Forum, a global industry trade organization chartered to promote and accelerate the adoption of VoiceXML-based applications, has awarded College of Computing & Informatics (CCI) Assistant Professor Jina Huh-Yoo, PhD a $25,000 grant for her proposal titled, “VoiceXML-based Conversational Agent for the Caregivers of Alzheimer’s and Alzheimer’s Related Dementia Patients.” This project is a collaborative effort among Huh-Yoo and CCI Associate Professor Aleksandra Sarcevic, PhD and Assistant Professor Erjia Yan, PhD; College of Nursing and Health Professions (CNHP) Dean Laura N. Gitlin, PhD; and CNHP's Associate Dean for Interprofessional Research and Development and Professor Rose Ann DiMaria-Ghalili, PhD.Jina Huh-Yoo

This grant will fund the ability to design and evaluate a phone-based conversational agent (CA) that will support caregivers to confidently seek tailored strategies on caregiving for persons living with dementia (PLWD) through iterative conversations with the agent.

There are more than 16 million Americans providing care for PLWD, with one or more family members providing most of the care; thirty percent of these caregivers are age 65 or older. Caring for a PLWD requires specialized knowledge and skills, however, caregivers often do not receive any type of preparation or training. There is also a lack of comprehensive, synthesized and reliable information specifically aimed at caregivers.

Despite a plethora of websites with educational materials on Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease related dementias (AD/ADRD), most families remain uninformed and on their own. Huh-Yoo’s project recognizes the urgent need to develop ways for families to obtain the information they need to better care for their loved ones.

The CA will enable older family caregivers to call in via phone to learn about tailored caregiving strategies for PLWD. The project’s central hypothesis is that the system will increase the ability of the caregiver to retrieve the information they need, thereby improving their dementia knowledge and confidence of symptom management without having to learn a new technological skill.

VoiceXML Board Member Paolo Baggia of Nuance Communications said in a statement: “After twenty years, VoiceXML standard infrastructures are still a pillar of Conversational Agent creation. The development of relevant and useful VoiceXML innovations, such as Professor Huh-Yoo’s caregiver assistance application, continue to make a difference in our world.”

Huh-Yoo’s research areas include human-computer interaction, health informatics, and computer-supported collaborative work. Past research projects include serving as PI of NIH Career Award for improving online health information quality using NLP in online health communities, and as PI for NSF Smart and Connected Health Program to develop acoustic sensing and awareness system for family wellness, specifically child obesity prevention. Her work has been published at ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, Journal of Biomedical Informatics, Journal of Medical Internet Research, and International Journal of Medical Informatics. She received best paper awards and honorable mention awards at ACM CHI, American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) Annual Symposium, and IMIA Yearbook of Medical Informatics Association.

About the VoiceXML Forum

Founded in 1999, the VoiceXML Forum is an industry organization whose mission is to promote and to accelerate the worldwide adoption of VoiceXML-based applications. The Forum serves as an educational and technical resource, a certification authority and a contributor and liaison to international standards bodies, such as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) IETF, ANSI and ISO. The VoiceXML Forum is organized as a program of the IEEE Industry Standards and Technology Organization (IEEE-ISTO). Membership in the Forum is open to any interested company. For more information, please visit the Website at

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