Although computing technology has made inroads into home environments, it has yet to instigate a major shift in the design of homes or home activities. We posit that the next revolution of technology in the home will arise from technologies aimed at helping older adults maintain their independence and quality of life while helping avoid a transition to a more expensive, institutional setting. In this article, we describe three of our research projects that each tackle a different dimension to “aging in place.” In our work with the “Digital Family Portrait,” we examine the need for awareness between extended family members especially when family members are separated by great physical distance. In the “Cook's Collage,” we investigate the use of activity snapshots to aid a person in resuming an interrupted task. And finally in “Dude's Magic Box,” we explore ways to help grandchildren and grandparents communicate when face-to-face visits are rare.
For keeping the elderly people living safely and in good health ‘at home’, various systems, which we called ‘Informational Care Systems at Home’ (ICSH), are being developed using informational technologies these days. One of these systems, the emergency-call system, is now introduced in more than 80 percent of municipalities in Japan, so it could be considered as one of the representative models of these systems. On the other hand, systems such as ‘the tele- monitoring system’ using network technology are also developed actively, in order to deliver information between family members beyond spatial distances. In this paper, we focused on the cognitive barriers to use these ICSH and hypothesized their causes from the users' personal view: that is, these ICSH systems can be thought as the transmitter of users' private sphere, that is the dual concept of public sphere. In the private sphere, people have controls on information delivery as what can be given to whom, in which the recipients are such as family members, doctors, friends, or neighbors. With ICSH systems, the residential users' controllability on information change in a drastic manner, therefore, these systems cause implicit and cognitive barriers to use. To verify the hypothesis, interviews with 6 people who were users of the emergency-call system were conducted, and found positive evidences for our hypothesis; the existence of the cognitive barriers, needs on controllability on information delivery at home, and also lack of mental models of the emergency-call system itself. With these results, the possible ways to design ICSH to be user centered was discussed.
In the bathroom, sensory functions, especially sight, are restricted. In such an environment, products designed for visually impaired users can improve usability for users without visually impairment. With this in mind, a new remote controller of the gas water heater in the bathroom was developed. It included improvements for visually impaired users. In particular, we applied origin signals to the new product and used them to notify a standard value on numerical value setting. To confirm the validity of the improvements, usability testing were executed for the remote controller before and after the improvements and if the results were compared. As a result, it became clear that visually impaired users could operate the controller appropriate voice guidance and origin signals were added. In addition, it was shown that this improvement did not disturb usability and improved usability for a user without visually impairment. The validity and problems on use of the origin signal also became clear.
As an unprecedented phenomenon that might characterize new relations between people and domestic artifacts, a craze for a toy doll was analyzed in middle-aged people. The makers of the doll, which is modeled on a virtual character, have sold more than 700 thousand over the last three years in Japan alone, and the age distribution of buyers indicates a modal age of 51-60 year old. In this paper, 51 fan letters and 271 Web postings spontaneously sent to the toy maker were analyzed in terms of communicative functions and affective-cognitive contents. The results indicate that (a) the doll owners believe that the doll facilitates their interaction with family members and with friends, and (b) the doll owners attribute positive feelings in terms of both mental and physical states to the doll. The effects of affective attachment are discussed in terms of human emotion model.
We propose a pulsed neural network model for visual search tasks. The traditional saliency-based search model can well simulate a simple visual search task, however, it can not account for other interesting phenomenon, for example, search asymmetry. Previous models with a deterministic WTA always direct attention to the most salient location, regardless of relative saliency. Thus, variation of the saliency does not lead to variation of search efficiency in the saliency-based search models. We show that the introduction of a stochastic WTA enables the saliency-based search model to exhibit changes in search efficiency as a result of the variation of the relative saliency, taking into account due to stochastic shifts of attention. The proposed model can simulate not only simple visual search tasks but also various asymmetries in visual searches.
Cognitive science research on scientific thinking is a rising approach in studies of science (i.e., meta-science such as philosophy and sociology of science), and has made important contributions to explaining scientific discovery processes. In this study, we first point out that construction processes of a Validity-Boundary (V.B.) are appropriate for studies in cognitive science. A V.B. serves as a criterion for an academic community to judge whether a new study is valid or not. In this sense, a V.B. constrains activities for generating new scientific knowledge. Research in science studies has suggested that scientists construct a V.B. through daily academic activities. Therefore, investigating the contents and construction processes of a V.B. is essential to fully understand scientific activity. Second, based on formal logic, we propose a framework for studying the construction processes of a V.B. Analysis of counterarguments in academic discussions using this framework suggest that there are several patterns of V.B. construction processes.