Motus research lab

Digital Humans UX for the Neurologically Impaired

















Marie is a 35-year-old personal assistant, she seems healthy but she is one of 450,000 people who will have a small blockage in an artery to her brain. As a result, the neurons cannot get enough energy and they start to stop working. Luckily, she is found and help means the artery was blocked for only a few minutes, but still, there is damage and brain cells have died.  Marie survived but she now has trouble with the world. She can live for many more years, but life skills are now very hard to acquire and the world is often unsettlingly confusing and unfamiliar.

Strokes can affect people of all ages. People surviving a stroke and other brain impairments often have trouble forming short term memories and learning new skills, which means mastering new technology is extremely difficult. 

Ischemic stroke is by far the most common kind of stroke, accounting for about 88 percent of all strokes. Strokes can affect people of all ages, including children.  Many people with ischemic strokes are often older, as the risk of stroke increases with age.


We are at the cusp of having the ability to produce emotionally engaging digital humans with high visual fidelity and familiarity thanks to real-time graphics engines such as UE4. This will allow us to put a personalized 'familiar' face on technology. 


We focus on the survivor experience and the adaptation of leading tech from the entertainment industries, specifically the UE4 engine from Epic Games, to enable people to help those with memory impairments, such as is often seen after a stroke, and allow them to be more self-reliant. 

Our team is building on cutting edge research into digital humans UX research to enable adoption and acceptance of complex technology with a very specific long term memory reference from each individual. It does not replace caregivers but uses long term memories to aid in navigating complex modern technology.

The USYD Motus Lab, which has a proven track record in international and local collaborative research. The team has developed a model and proof of concept already that allows for the adoption of new technologies and open-source IP. Our 2020 innovative research plan will enable both our team to build on our first major undertaken with subsequent new research. 

Next, we will be creating a major prototype and exploration of the technology in a controlled, ethically monitored way to selected screened individuals. Our program is not seeking to just roll out ‘an App’. The plan is to produce a tailored solution to aid caregivers and professional Therapists. The new approach will be scalable but designed to be used under supervision, in sync with daily living goals and Neurorehabilitation therapy. 



The system takes images of someone from a person’s past and produces an interface that allows their device or computer to respond with a human face. 

A face from that individual's past. It is not presented as that person but rather a moving memory that will assist and help people with their tasks. The technology produces plausible and believable human-style non-verbal cues. Which is a complex way to say it smiles, nods, waits, and acts in a reassuring manner. 

The technology helps to build a bridge from isolation to people in the lives of the survivor. The longer we can keep people connected, in their homes and engaged the richer their quality of life and the more effective their care can be.  The research will couple UE4 real-time human faces with existing back end API's such as Amazon Alexa. The research will explore how effective and impactful it could be to have a customised UE4 powered personal 'Alexa' that has a known long term face. It is not designed to trick the stroke survivor into thinking the person is real, it is designed to give the new technology a familiar face, a reassuringly familiar face in a world that is otherwise very unfamiliar and difficult to navigate. 




According to the World Health Organization, 

  • 15 million people suffer stroke worldwide each year. 
  • - 5 million will die & and 5 million are permanently disabled
  • There are more than 475,000 people living with the effects of stroke in Australia alone. This is said to increase to one million by 2050.
  • Around 30% of stroke survivors are of working age (under 65)
  • In 2017 there were more than 56,000 new and recurrent strokes – that is one stroke every nine minutes. 
  • 65% of stroke survivors suffer a disability which impedes their ability to carry out daily living activities unassisted.



The MOTUS lab does not just want to build a single application, it wants to introduce UX UE4 digital human education to the University's curriculum. The intent is to build a platform that allows the next generation of user applications and UX designers to harness the power and speed of digital humans that are generated in real-time to tackle even more complex problems. For example, after Stroke survivors, there are other neurologically impaired UX problems, such as continually adapting  Dementia  Agents and avatars for people suffering from Locked-in Syndrome.


There is a direct relationship between the MOTUS Research Plan and the educational objectives of the University. While our work and research are focused on digital human interfaces, it part of a wider survivor ‘User Experience’. Our teaching builds off our deeper understanding gained from our research. This enables us to help future researchers and practitioners to better understand the issues around brain injuries and survivor user experiences.

UX uses many principles of Design Thinking to explore how new and innovative technologies can be better integrated with empathetically with the issues of survivors. The University already has a strong medical team exploring Strokes and brain impairment. Our research is a complement to this work. We are not seeking to solve strokes medically. We are seeking a way to make survivors more independent and improve their quality of life. But broad education to our students about the general issue is an admirable side benefit of our work. Empathy with survivors in what they face is critical to the MOTUS Lab and what we teach. 

Real-time interactive User Experiences that are made possible by powerful engines such as Epic Games UE4 allow a whole new class of solutions. We are keen to both explore those solutions and educate students in how to use the tools, so they can actively use such engines in areas outside the University. The term 'game' engine no longer adequately describes the functionality and applications we can teach our students. While games remain a strong career option for many, using this technology in an enterprise context especially with complex UX, offers a rich new area of training and experimentation. 


The MOTUS lab is part of the University of Sydney, Australia's oldest and most respected University especially in the area of Health.  The University of Sydney has one of the most impressive medical research agendas and teaching programs in the country. The University already has significant groups that the MOTUS Lab works alongside such as the Brain and Mind Centre and the Sydney Dementia Network, as well as one of the regions leading Occupational Therapy research teams . This is vital as great care is required in moving this technology into early trials, and having experienced ethics and review teams to facilitate important patient interactions and approvals.  




The MOTUS Lab's research and educational focus is based in the Business Information Systems discipline of the Sydney University Business School. While our work is very much cross disciplinary, the BIS team are focused on applications of technology and sense making, rather than just technical innovation. 

We are committed to the United Nations PRME initative of developing capabilities of students to be future generators of value for business and society at large and to work for an inclusive and sustainable global economy. 

Our vision is to continue to systemically transform organisational education beyond the paradigm of shareholder vlaue maximisation, towards responsible  education, research and thought leadership.

PhD program

If you are interesed in a PhD or post-graduate study please contact us to find out more 

Technical paper: JAIS

Actors, Avatars and Agents: Potentials and Implications of Natural Face Technology for the Creation of Realistic Visual Presence 

By Mike Seymour, Kai Rimer and Judy Kay.

Technical paper: Communications of the ACM

Creating Connection with Autonomous Facial Animation

By Mark Sagar, Mike Seymour and Annette Henderson.

Mapping Beyond the Uncanny Valley: A Delphi StUDY

 Mapping Beyond the Uncanny Valley: A Delphi Study on Aiding Adoption of Realistic Digital Faces  

By    Mike Seymour, Kia Riemer, Judy Kay 

Files coming soon.

Crossing the Uncanny Valley?

 Crossing the Uncanny Valley? Understanding Affinity, Trustworthiness, and Preference for More Realistic Virtual Humans in Immersive Environments  

By    M. Seymour, L. Yuan, A. Dennis, K. Riemer  

Files coming soon.

Artificial Intelligence Is No Match for Human Stupidity

  Artificial Intelligence Is No Match for Human Stupidity: 

Ethical Reflections on Avatars and Agents  

By    M. Seymour, 

Files coming soon.

Hello Computer: Conceptualising “Presence” in HCI Eng

  Hello Computer: Towards a Research Agenda for Conceptualising “Presence” in Human-Computer Engagement 

By    M. Seymour,  , E. Hafermalz  

Files coming soon.