Alex Mihailidis

Alex MihailidisProfessor
Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Tel: 416-946-8565
Website: Intelligent Assistive Technology and Systems Lab (IATSL)

School of Graduate Studies
Full Member, Graduate Coordinator for the Clinical Engineering Program
  • Barbara G. Stymiest Research Chair in Rehabilitation Technology – Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and University of Toronto
  • Associate Professor – Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, University of Toronto
  • Associate Professor (Cross-appointment) – Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto
  • Associate Scientist – Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Clinical Integrative Biology Unit (CIB), Toronto
  • Site Lead, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery (CPSR)
  • Adjunct Associate Professor, Faculty of Rehabiltation Sciences, University of Alberta
  • Affiliate Scientist, Research, Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, Alberta
  • Adjunct Professor, Gerontology Program, Faculty of Arts and Science, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia
Alex Mihailidis, Ph.D., P.Eng., is the Barbara G. Stymiest Research Chair in Rehab Technology at U of T and Toronto Rehab. He is the Scientific Director of the AGE-WELL Network of Centres of Excellence, which focuses on the development of new technologies and services for older adults. He is a Professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy and in the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering. He has been conducting research in the field of and intelligent systems in health for the past 15 years, with a specific focus on the development of intelligent home systems for elder care.
Selected PublicationsAll PublicationsKeywords
The following are my most significant contributions since receiving tenure in 2009. They are considered by other researchers in my field as foundational publications in the areas of smart homes, robotics, rehabilitation, and other technologies to support older adults. These publications were chosen not because they may have been the most highly-cited, but because they have had the greatest impact thus far with respect to: 1) establishing and extending my own research program; and 2) providing evidence for other researchers (including trainees) to build their own research programs within this field.

    1. Rashidi, P., Mihailidis, A. A Survey on Ambient Assisted Living Tools for Older Adults. IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics. 2013;17(3):579-590. Co-Principal Author.

      This work represents one of the most comprehensive overviews of the area of ambient assisted living (ALL) technologies as applied to older adults both with and without dementia. AAL is the term that is used internationally to describe technologies to support older adults. This paper provides an overview of key concepts about AAL technologies including in-depth theoretical concepts related to sensor, artificial intelligence, and design. It also provides an overview of the key past and present projects that are being completed in this area. In addition, the paper provides insights on best principles in practice in AAL and the design of technologies for this population. This paper is seen as a seminal work in my field and has been significantly cited by others (231 citations as of September, 2016).


    1. Mihailidis, A., Boger, J, Hoey, J. Jiancaro, T. (2011). Zero Effort Technologies: Considerations, Challenges and Use in Health, Wellness, and Rehabilitation. In R.M. Baecker (Ed.) Synthesis Lectures on Assistive, Rehabilitative, and Health-Preserving Technology, San Rafael, CA: Morgan & Claypool Publishers. Principal Author.

      This work is the first published work on the topic of zero-effort technologies and their applications in healthcare. It is part of a large volume of a body of work, called the Synthesis Lectures on Assistive, Rehabilitative, and Health-Preserving Technologies that is playing a significant role in the assistive technology field. This is a brand new area of research that I have established and this monograph provides a detailed account on the topic area, including strategies and tools for the development and implementation of such technologies. The term “zero-effort technologies” is now being used a common term with the field of technology for older adults and others with disabilities, with others in my field now using the same term and principles in their own work. In addition, many of the approaches that I describe in this publication are being used by others in my field, resulting in a new generation of devices being developed for older adults. This monograph has been downloaded more than 600 times from the publisher’s website.


    1. Lu, E., Wang, R., Hebert, D., Boger, J., Galea, M., and Mihailidis, A. (2011).

      The development of an upper limb stroke rehabilitation robot: Identification of clinical practices and design requirements through a survey of therapists. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, 6(5), 420-431. Senior Responsible Author
      This paper represents an important new area of research for me on the development and testing of new technology for stroke rehabilitation. It was the starting point for a highly successful area of research within my current program, which has resulted in several publications, the completion of clinical trials, and now the licensing of the resulting rehab robot to an industrial partner in Canada and a distributor in Mainland China. This specific publication is important as it outlines the first rehab robot that was designed using a participatory design approach, where we had therapists design and specify the robot and its features through an online (international) survey and various focus groups. In addition to the resulting technology, which is novel onto itself, the methodology and data described in this paper are now being used and cited by others in the field of rehabilitation robotics and other areas of assistive technology. For example, a new robotic system from a European company has cited our work in the design of their new commercial product and the features that it incorporates. In addition, the use of participatory design in this field was very limited. This paper, and the presentations/workshops on this topic that I have developed and given based on the paper itself, has contributed to the increasing acceptance of this design approach.


    1. Czarnuch, S., Mihailidis, A. The design of in-home assistive technologies: Assessing the needs of older adults with dementia and their caregivers. Gerontechnology, 2011, 10(3), 169-182. Senior Responsible Author

      This paper is the first paper in my field that describes a detailed study of the needs of older adults with dementia and their family caregivers with respect to smart home technologies using data collected from a significant sample size. As this field continues to grow, there are more and more technologies that are being developed. However, there has not been any significant work completed that has examined the features and functions that these technologies should have, especially from the perspective of caregivers. This study conducted a large online survey to determine this information. The criteria identified in this paper are now being incorporated by our own technology development project, and by other researchers in the field. The results of this paper are now being developed into a formal design guideline that can be used by others in the technology and aging field to ensure that more effective technologies are being developed. This type of guideline will be the first of its kind. In addition, this paper laid the basis for a new research grant from the Alzheimer Society of Canada, which has resulted in significant data being collected that examines the role of various socio-economic factors in the design and adoption of technology by family caregivers. The papers that will result from this new work will be the first of its kinds in the technology and aging field.


  1. Mihailidis, A., Blunsden, S., Boger, J., Richards, B., Zutis, K., Young, L., Hoey, J. Towards the Development of a Technology for Art Therapy and Dementia: Definition of Needs and Design Constraints. The Journal of Arts in Psychotherapy, 2010, 37(4), 293-300. Principal Author.

    For many years in the technology and aging field, technologies and other interventions mainly focused on supporting individuals through specific care activities and activities of daily living (e.g., getting dressed, preparing meals, hygiene, etc). There was a significant paucity in the field with respect to research into the use of technology to support other aspects of an older adult’s life, such as leisure activities. This paper presents research that I started on the use of intelligent systems and technologies to improve access to leisure activities among older adults with dementia. This paper describes the outcomes of a participatory design approach that was conducted with art therapists in order to determine the feature and functions of this new technology. Using the results of this study we have developed a prototype of this new art therapy table which was successfully trialed with older adults with dementia and their art therapists. This paper and resulting presentations have contributed to the development of a new theme within the technology and field around the use of technology to support leisure activities, and other important domains (e.g. work and productivity). The results showed the importance of supporting older adults with dementia in creative activities and the benefits of these types of activities on various indicators related to cognition and quality of life. It was also the first paper to present strong evidence on how technology can be used as a tool in art therapy, which is a growing field with increasing evidence of its importance in dementia care (and other types of disabilities).

smart homes, artificial intelligence, pervasive computing, older adults, assistive technology
Recent Thesis/Projects Supervised

Post-Doctoral Research Fellows (current)
Primary Supervisor. Ali Asadian. Tele-rehabilitation using a haptic robot.
Primary Supervisor. Belkacem Chikhaoui, University of Toronto.
Primary Supervisor. Ahmed Bilal Ashraf, University of Toronto.
Primary Supervisor. Pooja Viswanathan. Development and evaluation of an intelligent powered wheelchair.

PhD Candidates (current)
Primary Supervisor. Tuck-Voon How, University of Toronto. Supervisee Institution: U of T. The use of pervasive computing in cognitive rehabilitation.
Primary Supervisor. Tizneem Jiancaro, University of Toronto. Assistive technology for cognition best practices guidelines.
Primary Supervisor. Elham Dolatabadi, University of Toronto. An intelligent balance assessment system.
Primary Supervisor. Ahmad Akl, University of Toronto. Automated detection, classification, and prediction of patterns of living.
Primary Supervisor. Amy Hwang, University of Toronto. The design of a graphical user interface for the COACH system.
Primary Supervisor. Isaac Chang, University of Toronto. The design and validation of a smart floor tile to measure physiological data.
Primary Supervisor. Vicky Young, University of Toronto. A speech-recognition interface for an emergency response system.
Co-Supervisor. Justin Chee, University of Toronto. Supervisee Position: PhD Student, Supervisee Institution: University of Toronto. Augmenting assistive mobility devices with biophysical feedback. Collaborator(s): Karl Zabjek.
Co-Supervisor. Stephanie Green (nee Peacock), University of Toronto. Changes in Brain Activation Post-mild Traumatic Brain Injury of Male and Female Minor-league Hockey Players. Collaborator(s): Michelle Keightley (Co-Supervisor).

Master’s Level (Current)
Primary Supervisor. MASc. Harminder Sandhu, University of Toronto.
Primary Supervisor. MASc. Genevieve Foley, University of Toronto.
Primary Supervisor. MASc. Howard Chiam, University of Toronto. Understanding the use of games in stroke rehabilitation.
Primary Supervisor. MASc. Samantha Bergeron, University of Toronto.
Primary Supervisor. MASc. Rajjeet Phull, University of Toronto. Designing new innovative middleware features for ambient assisted living (AAL) systems.
Primary Supervisor. MASc. David Xue, University of Toronto. An intelligent prompting system for children with autism.
Co-Supervisor. MSc. Tammy Craig, University of Toronto. Mediated learning approaches using multi-touch displays. (In-Progress). Collaborator(s): Helene Polatajko (Co-Supervisor).

Research Interests
“My research interests lie within the intersections of gerontology, engineering, computer science, and healthcare. I have specifically been conducting research in the application of these principles to support older adults in their own environments and contexts. I have been developing and will continue to work on three primary research thrusts, each with their own specific projects: a) Supportive intelligent environments; b) Safe mobility and falls; and c) Health monitoring and response.”
Current Courses
OCT1100 – Technology, Design, and OT
OCT1262 – Accessibility, Usability, and Universal Design Lab
Special Lectures / Keynote Speeches
A Selection:

2015 Nov 9.  Invited Speaker. AAL-WELL: Ambient Assistive Living Technology for Wellness, Engagement, and Long Life. ERA-AGE2 Meeting. London, London, City of, United Kingdom.

2015 Oct 8.  Invited Speaker. A 30,000 foot look at AT to support older adults. WHO Meeting on Innovations in Aging. Kobe, Japan.

2015 Jun 22.  Keynote Speaker. AGE-WELL NCE: Canada’s Technology & Aging Network. Aging2.0 Montreal Chapter Kick-off Event. Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

2015 May 27.  Keynote Speaker. Disruption Ahead:  Transforming Technology for Aging and Healthcare. Scientific Day, Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal. Montreal, Quebec, Canada.