User Interfaces in Smart Assistive Environments: Requirements, Devices, Applications

User Interfaces in Smart Assistive Environments: Requirements, Devices, Applications

Laura Raffaeli (Università Politecnica delle Marche, Italy), Laura Montanini (Università Politecnica delle Marche, Italy), Ennio Gambi (Università Politecnica delle Marche, Italy), and Susanna Spinsante (Università Politecnica delle Marche, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0435-1.ch017
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Assistive environments are primarily designed to support the healthy and independent living of ageing people. Elderly are often perceived as being resistant to technology; in reality, many of them are willing to accept novel digital technologies into their lives, and to take advantage of what technology has to offer. The “not worth it” impression, on the other hand, is more likely to be triggered by unusable interfaces, that prevent the older users from perceiving technology as both usable and useful. This motivates the need of investigating suitable guidelines for the design of user-system interfaces in the field of smart assistive environments, for which elderly are the typical target users. Focusing on two specific physical user-system interfaces, i.e. smart TVs and touchscreen devices, this chapter discusses the requirements that a design for older users has to address. The theoretical discussion is supported by experimental results gained from an Ambient Assisted Living project carried out by the authors, discussed as a use case in the last part of the chapter.
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Assistive technologies have the potential to play a key role to help ageing people performing their daily activities at home, and thus maintaining their independence. This is a relevant issue, as globally, 40% of older persons aged 60 years or over live independently, that is to say, alone or with their spouse only. Independent living is far more common in the developed countries, where about three quarters of older persons live independently, compared with only a quarter in developing countries, and one eighth in the least developed countries. As countries develop and their populations continue to age, living alone or with a spouse only will likely become much more common among older people in the future.

As a result of the increase in life expectancy, however, the need to create a protected and safe environment that allows the elderly people to best use their motor and cognitive skills is becoming gradually more obvious.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Telemedicine: The set of medical and IT techniques enabling the remote care of a patient, or to provide health services remotely.

Acceptability: Refers to the quality of being acceptable, of meeting someone’s needs adequately.

Sensor: A device that detects or senses a physical stimulus (as heat, light, sound, pressure, magnetism, etc.) and transmits a resulting impulse.

Interface: Component that mediates the relationship between two entities. For example, a user interface is a point of interaction between the user and the machine.

Domotic System: Set of technological components capable of performing functions that can be partially autonomous, programmed by the user, or even completely autonomous.

Actuator: A mechanical device for moving or controlling something.

Assistive Technologies: Information Technology (IT) products and services developed specifically to be accessible by elderly, by people with disabilities or with chronic diseases, to help to compensate for functional limitation and increase or maintain their functional abilities.

Electro-Medical Device: Electronic instrument or equipment used for medical purposes and health care.

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