Diversity does not disappear with age. Ambient Assisted Living user interfaces (AALuis) addresses the unique needs of the individual to help older adults better exploit the range of ICT-based comfort and care services.
For older adults it is vitally important that ICT-based AAL services are able to meet their diverse and changing requirements to get the support they need, especially at a time when more and more elderly people want to live independently for as long as possible within their own environments. A one-sizefits-all approach to ICT user-interfaces (UIs) doesn’t do justice to such diversity. What the AALuis project offers is an enhanced UI that respectfully adapts to the individual needs and preferences of older adults. According to Christopher Mayer, project coordinator at the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT), end-users need different ways of interacting with AAL services at different stages of their lives. “Your eyesight might be good to begin with,” says Mayer, “but later it could get worse. You may enjoy using a touchscreen, but over time you can lose motor ability.” As an open middleware layer, AALuis lets users choose their preferred platform, be it a smartphone, tablet, PC or TV, with a UI that is recognisable and comfortably consistent across the board.
The customer is always right
End-user involvement has been an integral feature of the AALuis project from the start. Despite some technical hitches, a second run of field trials has proven that it pays to listen to the customer. Tested by independent older adults and by those requiring assistance, AALuis shows that it is possible to provide services ranging from comfort to care on the individual’s preferred technology. As Mayer happily recalls: “Most users of the older user group found smartphones a challenge but all the end-users really liked the solution because of the possibility to change, from a touch tablet to a TV screen, for example, or between any other device.”
Technology in flux
AALuis began with an ambitious aim: to make UIs and AAL systems easier to use in light of changing needs; help facilitate the connection of different services to different UIs and bring about a broader usage of AAL systems. These goals are still key but rather than being brought to the market as a whole, AALuis is progressing in a more segmented fashion. “All the partners have reused aspects of AALuis and developed it in further projects,” explains Mayer, “but to bring it to the market, I think it has to be in combination, as an add-on.” The user interaction layer, for example, is being used extensively in further research projects.
The idea behind AALuis originated at AIT but the AAL Programme gave them the impetus to run with it by providing funding, collaboration, and strong support. Different funding rules for each participating country can be challenging for the projects but they haven’t deterred Mayer: “I think it’s a really good programme and we’re continuously participating in it. Some challenges occurred during the project, for example, having to change a partner or technical hitches in the field trials, but the spirit within the project consortium was really amazing the whole time, and that is a really important thing for these projects to succeed.”
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