This screenshot from CanAssist's CanPlan app is an example of how the organization proposed CanDo app would work – by using text and photos to illustrate each step needed to complete a task

This screenshot from CanAssist's CanPlan app is an example of how the organization proposed CanDo app would work – by using text and photos to illustrate each step needed to complete a task

UVic’s CanDo app the Post-it note for the modern age

A smartphone app to help individuals with cognitive disabilities easily navigate the challenges of daily life is $50,000 closer to reality

A proposed smartphone app to help individuals with cognitive disabilities easily navigate the challenges of daily life is $50,000 closer to reality, after a group from the University of Victoria was named a finalist earlier this month in a nationwide Cognition Challenge.

A trio of academics working on behalf of UVic’s CanAssist program – Celina Berg, Yvonne Coady and CanAssist founder Nigel Livingston – earned the contest’s top prize, which includes the money, as well as space and expertise to help them develop and commercialize their app.

“This is super exciting for CanAssist, and the opportunity for us to expand into a new area of commercialization is really fabulous,” said Berg, who travelled to San Francisco on July 9 with Coady to present their proposal to a panel of judges.

Their app, CanDo, would be designed to help cognitively disabled individuals and their caregivers with the planning, navigation and execution of everyday activities, building on the technologies already built in to a smartphone.

“For example, say someone was planning to go on an outing the next day. The night before, the caregiver could program the app to have a set of tasks they have to remember to do – charge your phone, put your wallet and keys by the door, set your alarm for a certain time,” Berg said. “We want to focus on the ability to allow a caregiver – that could be medical staff, it could be family – to customize the tasks for the patient.”

She equates the reminders and step-by-step instructions to a modern, high-tech version of the common practice of using Post-It notes stuck throughout a house as reminders for Alzheimer’s patients.

“The smartphone has the ability to collect data. It has all these sensors we can make use of – GPS, time stamps, accelerometer, and it can send out notifications to a caregiver,” Berg said. “That’s all valuable to a caregiver to see how their family member is doing, or to a researcher who wants to track how a theory or treatment is helping or affecting their everyday tasks.”

The Cognition Challenge was put on by Johnson & Johnson and the Consulate General of Canada, and asked researchers to “submit their solutions to address problems of learning and memory related to Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive orders,” read a release.

CanAssist is a UVic-based organization that aims to improve the quality of life for those living with disabilities. It already has two free smartphone apps available, CanPlan and CanConnect. CanPlan helps users move through a task using text and photos, while CanConnect is a user-friendly, striped-down version of Skype. They are also currently developing CanPlan, which helps users navigate public transit.

There’s currently no timeline on getting CanDo to its commercialization phase, as there’s a lengthy research and development process to undertake first.

“When the judges awarded us the money, they said they would like to help us to focus on maybe a smaller user group, and later on expand it to a broader demographic,” Berg said. “We really want to connect with some experts, and really make the user and caregiver the primary focus because we want this to be user-driven development.”

For more information on CanAssist, visit


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Various Victoria locations were hit with a slew of anti-bylaw graffiti Wednesday. This image has been altered to cover up profane language. (Submitted photo)
UPDATED: Slew of anti-bylaw graffiti an ‘unacceptable’ form of communication says Victoria mayor, police

Downtown businesses, bylaw office and Ministry of Finance vandalized Wednesday morning

The Gordon Head Recreation Centre stands in as the Quimper Regional Hospital on Feb. 23 for filming Maid, a 10-part Netflix series. (Greg Sutton/District of Saanich)
Netflix transforms Saanich recreation centre into hospital for filming

Facility was closed to public Feb. 23 for filming of Maid

Greg Chow is the 2021 Local Hero of the Year. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Fighting fire a family affair for Colwood Assistant Chief Greg Chow

With 38 years of service, Greg Chow is the 2021 Hero of the Year

This rendering shows plans for the new “flyover”overpass connecting northbound traffic on Highway 17 heading west on Keating Cross Road. Plans currently seeking public input propose two options for the median along Keating Cross Road. Option 1 will prevent left turns onto Tamany Drive and Buena Vista Road. Option 2 (seen here)will allow for left turns onto Tamany Drive and Bujena Vista Road. (Screencap/Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Public asked for comment on proposed overpass for Pat Bay in Central Saanich

New flyover overpass proposed for Highway 17 and Keating Cross Road

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media File Photo)
POLL: Are you struggling with Greater Victoria’s cost of housing?

While Victoria remains one of the most expensive cities in the country… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

When his owner had knee surgery, Kevin, 2, was able to continue to go for walks thanks to volunteers from Elder Dog Canada. (Contributed photo)
B.C. woman has nothing but praise for Elder Dog Canada

National organization has a fleet of volunteer walkers ready, but needs more clients to serve

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

A Nanaimo RCMP vehicle in the Woodgrove Centre parking lot. (News Bulletin file photo)
Woman groped by stranger in mall parking lot in Nanaimo

Incident happened near bus loop Saturday, Feb. 20, at about 4:45 p.m.

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

Most Read