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The iPad has come to have many uses since its introduction three years ago. For some it’s an entertainment mill, where Netflix and YouTube content flow endlessly into the eyeball, and for others it’s an easy way to game and surf the web when they should be working (not naming any names).

But one of its biggest and perhaps most unexpected uses is its emergent role as an educational platform, and a recently-launched Kickstarter is looking to repurpose Apple’s device as a dead simple computer for elderly and disabled users. Clevermind is a simplified platform that allows any user to access the majority of the iPad’s functions within a single, basic program. Specifically targeting Alzheimer’s patients, Clevermind users can play a variety of games to keep themselves mentally stimulated, easily connect with friends and family on social networks, and even consume web content all from within the specially designed and easy to navigate platform.

We sat down with Clevermind creator Glenn Palumbo, who gave us the rundown on the iPad platform with tons of potential.

What is the backstory behind Clevermind?

I decided to create an app that would help my father stay independent and be able to do stuff on his own without a lot of assistance. My dad was never really able to grasp using a computer. He was still fully coherent, but just too far past the tech stage when home PCs became commonplace.



I was shocked when, after the iPad came out, I brought one over and he seemed interested in it. He would play with the iPad but he constantly needed attention and assistance; he’d wind up in the app store, delete and move icons. He kind of got lost and frustrated. I decided that I should create something that could help him -- something that would combine all those important apps in one space and be easy enough to use even if it looked brand new every day.

What are some of the specific benefits an elderly user can gain from Clevermind?

I don’t claim that this will cure anything; it won’t cure Alzheimer's, but the concept is the quality of life aspect. They can connect to friends and can entertain themselves using the app. If their cognitive ability is high enough they can surf the internet.

Using Apple’s built-in guide access, you can lock them into just this app. They can use it for minutes or hours. They can play various types of games, like tic tac toe or Sudoku, or cognitive and memory games to keep them mentally sharp. It’s much better than watching TV all day, which shuts the brain down. By doing these exercises and games and talking to people it keeps the brain moving.



How did you go about designing the app interface?

Everything is big and easy to get to. The goal is to do something within three taps or less. There are a limited amount of categories to keep things simple, as well as voice control. We have a customized voice recognition system called MYIRA (My Intelligent Robotic Assistant) stored locally so you don’t have to use Wi-fi.

In the interface it allows them to see a picture of themselves alongside the animation of MYIRA. Not only can you hear what MYIRA is saying but you can see it on the screen, and you can see how it interprets what you’re saying as well.

What’s one area of your business that’s keeping you up at night?

Mostly what I’ve come up with, and entirely in a good way. I believe what I’ve created doesn’t really exist anywhere else; there’s so much potential for it. I’m really building a foundation for so many other uses, including disabled children and many other cognitive disabilities.

The thing that a lot of other platforms out there don’t have is the level of engagement that Clevermind is providing. A lot of people make their apps for people to stay engaged for ten or fifteen minutes. I’m trying to make a controlled environment for someone to stay engaged for hours at a time.



What has been your biggest challenge?

Getting everything done that I want to get done. The biggest challenge has been putting enough into it and still keeping it very simple. As you build it you come up with more ideas, and trying to keep it from getting too complex turns into a big challenge.

What’s something you’ve learned along the way that you wish you’d know when you started?

Everything’s been learning up until now so it’s hard to pin it on any one thing. The amount of feedback I’m getting is amazing. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that I didn’t quite understand the potential of what I’m actually building from the beginning. I have people that want to put it into schools for disabled children, and eventually for autistic children or other children with disabilities. The potential of what I’ve actually created is pretty large.

What’s next for Clevermind?

The next part is to actually release the product. My first version is going to be in June. The next step is to take it to the next level and really get it polished and get it out there as much as I can. We’re currently looking for investors to help us take it to that next level.

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