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Assistive Technology as field test for improving usability in mainstram ICT

26/04/2013
Posted by
vhernandez
09:00

 From scrolling you screen in order to see picture details to getting on your car and order to play a Metallica record with your voice, many usability features that we find nowadays in mainstream technology come from  the Resarch and Development related to Assistive Technologies and Accessibility. 

When Assistive Technology is incorporated into mainstream, user experience takes a big leap. Screen reader software in your smarphone enables you to have your messages read while driving . Moreover screen reader applications have proven to be succesful for learning the pronunciation while learning languages.I even have a friend with a hectic daily schedule who brings his e-book to the gym so that when he is on the treadmill he can practise his english listening to the last Ken Follet  best seller been read out for him.These are just a set of vulgar examples of how assistive technology and accessibility advances have a positive impact on everyones lives. It is not just a matter of compassion or samaritan goodwill. 

A mention should be given to progams which enable you to caption the audio, originally thought for deaf people. These are incorporated into android and iphone systems enhancing comfort and easyness into typing. Furthermore, domotics and car stereo systems have also adopted this speech recognition in order to take commands and perform actions. 

Having said that, I do not think that public and private institutions have learned about the potentialities of researching on technology for people with special needs. Many times these investments are seen as a unavoidable burden for a limited segment of society whereas in reality this one of the pillars of mainstream advances come from new developments on Assistive Technologies and Accessibility

 
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Average rating: 3 (1735 reviews) | Review

Social Science for AT?

22/04/2013
Posted by
vhernandez
16:21

 It is certanly wrong to ignore what  social sciences can contribute to the design and test of technology. Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology have been proven to be powerfull tools for designing and tailoring Assistive Technologies devices and functionalities. The use of questionnaires and interviews were the initial tools tha outreached the social science field to go into marketing, behavioural science and later into engineer. Usability and acceptance was seen as a new age mantra by some serious enginers until itself became a matter of life and death. Little by little, research methods and paradigms from social sciences such as focus groups, personnas and use cases started to be intertwined with the desing and test of various systems and devices. 

In order to apply the motto "think out of the box"  ICT gurus reccommend to follow the ethnographic approach, where the object of the study is not a device or system not even a small controlled interaction, but a direct observation in the environment. The researcher tries to empatize with the user and get used to the environment of use. A story is told and the researcher takes notes for a period of time.  A clear example is drawn by Gerry Katz, Vice President of Applied Marketing Limited, where his team was assigend to asses and improve a dialisis machine. Whereas technical guys only focused on the hardware/software level, the ethnografer realised that no more buttoms or screens were needed. The crucial improvement suggested by the ethnographer was to install a phisical flat shelf so it could serve as a desk to writte measurements down. He observed that nurses spent ridiculous amount of time going from the machine to a desk only to write down measurements. The perfomance of the whole machine was considered to be improved by a 20%!. There are really unarticulated needs that a social researcher can convey. 

 
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Average rating: 3 (1752 reviews) | Review

The power of loving your user(s) when developing AT

22/04/2013
Posted by
vhernandez
13:29

  

The power of loving your user(s) when developing AT

 Juan Carlos Gonzalez loves his users. Well, he  actually loves one in particular. He loved him even before he was born but he started to care about his needs as a user a bit later, about two years and a half after his birth. Even though he was used to deal with customer needs on his daily job as salesman at the local mall of sunny Marbella, he did not love them as much as this one. Who said Assistive Technology is about wires, code, programming and delivering service, it can also being about love man!. Moreover to create a sound ICT product you do not have to move to Palo Alto or finish your master at CallTech or MIT, it can easily be done by a local salesman in southern Spain.

Dario was diagnosed with autism and Juan Carlos  thought that this was his chance to look for some personal communicators  apps that could help Dario´s communications skills and development. He realized that the amount of electronic resources was too limited besides of being in foreign languages.

 Then he had to step from a salesman to a “developer who loves his users”. Along with the Angel Riviere Association, Juan Carlos decided to create an app that could integrate the existing therapies for the autistic spectrum into tablet/mobile applications. The state of the art personal communicators did not allow to upload and create your own pictograms and images.  When I talked to Juan Carlos Garcia on the phone he was very enthusiastic about the impact this is having on the development of children within the autistic spectrum. He told me about a spinoff of this initial project which consists on an app that only shows your favorite videos, images and cartoons when you have both hands touching the screen. “The first challenge for parents and educators regarding children with autism is keeping your children sat for more than 30 seconds”. Therefore if children want to check their favorite hits, they must keep their  both hands on the screen, the result of this is a positive reinforcement of being seated. “As for everyone, they prefer the carrot rather than the stick”. His ongoing work is tested on daily basis by his son Dario and by the therapies at his association. “I provide free subscription to other associations only requesting feedback”.  Juan Carlos has been awarded by different prestigious institutions as the best app of the year. He does not want to stop there but to keep researching and integrating different therapies into apps, his main challenge according to him is to make these projects financially sustainable since the app-selling market does not support everything. 

Please check out what this pather is doing with his user since a qualitative change is being achieved 

http://www.ablah.org/

http://anaguardiac.wordpress.com/tag/juan-carlos-gonzalez/

 
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Average rating: 3 (1741 reviews) | Review

AALIANCE2 - Invitation to Workshop on Reference Designs for Integrated Applications for AAL

15/04/2013
Posted by
EstibalizOchoaFVE
10:42

Participation to the workshop is free, but participation is limited to a maximum of 20 participants.

Registration deadline is May 11th 2013.

AALIANCE2 Project is a Coordination Action funded in the European Union's 7th Framework Programme, focussing on Ambient Assisted Living. (AAL) solutions based on advanced ICT technologies for ageing and wellbeing of elderly people in Europe. One of the project's main objectives is to build consensus upon upcoming research priorities, standardization and certification needs in the AAL sector, to be published in the AALIANCE AAL Roadmap and Strategic Research Agenda.This fourth workshop will focus on reference architectures and AAL middleware. Many projects have in the last few years developed AAL runtime environments and middleware solutions that aim at being reusable "AAL operating systems".

Is anyone participating on this workshop?

 
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Average rating: 3 (1868 reviews) | Review

Interesting for developers: Vodafone Innovation Awards 2013!

15/04/2013
Posted by
EstibalizOchoaFVE
10:26
The objective of the awards, presented by the Fundación Vodafone España (Vodafone Spain Foundation), is to support the development of innovative products and services supported by technological telecommunications which promise a wide impact in the information society for their interest, novelty and accessibility for all people. Vodafone Spain Foundation will award three prizes, under the heading of "Project Innovation Award in the field of Research and Development of Telecommunications", of 20,000€ each one. The three prizes awarded by Vodafone Spain Foundation respond to the following three categories: 1. Award to "Mobile for Good Application" development. This category will award a new application for smartphones that contributes to improving the quality of life, personal autonomy and the promotion of active aging and intergenerational solidarity. Applications submitted must have already reached the beta phase. 2. Award to "ICT Mobile for Good Solution" project. The projects submitted under this category must have completed its definition phase and be ready to begin its implementation phase. 3. Award to "Social ICT Entrepreneur ". To participate in this category, entrepreneur must be previously enrolled in Vodafone Spain programme "I undertake with Vodafone", to be applicable to their particular conditions. (www.emprendoconvodafone.com).  
 
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Average rating: 3 (1689 reviews) | Review