S.M.I.L.E. WITH SIMPATIA
Politecnico di Milano (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Conference name: 4th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 8-10 March, 2010
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:This paper presents the research project “S.M.I.L.E. with Simpatia” developed in the context of a higher education program called Alta Scuola Politecnica, joining two major Italian universities, i.e. Politecnico di Milano and Politecnico di Torino, and two companies, such as Telecom Italia and Pirelli Lab. The project concerns an application of broadband technology into healthcare aiming at bridging the gap between human emotions and technology and it was developed from technical, economical and social point of view. Because of the problem complexity and the peculiar context of a health care residence for disabled people, all the work was based on user-centered design techniques and action research approaches.
The group team is composed of five students from different backgrounds such as design, telecommunications, computer, electronic engineering and management. The aim of the project is to develop a usable communication system for disabled people living in a healthcare residence called Simpatia, Como, Italy, that gives primary and rehabilitation services for people who have both physical and cognitive problems.
It is a common belief that IT should enable the removal of barriers to common life to people with disabilities. Communication is absolutely part of a common life but it can often become a problem for people with disabilities. For many disabled people modern IT technologies can become a link point with the external world: it could become possible to work, to buy goods and even study. One of the possibilities given by IT is video communication. Unfortunately disable people can seldom benefit of these innovations since they are not thought for them.
For the primary research we did context analysis on field in order to understand user needs and get hints useful to conceive possible scenarios. To this aim several interviews both to patients and to Sim-patia employees as well as audio and video recordings were collected. Secondly we used ethnography method where we designed several scenarios in order to define behaviours of disabled people while they communicate with their parents and friends. We designed a communication system based on the collected information that we lastly prototype and tested leveraging on well known techniques such as Wizard of Oz, direct observation and user feedbacks.
The project result is a Simple Talk system package based on Skype that allows disabled people to communicate with their parents and their experts by the help of wide band technology. We have developed several interfaces composed by physical devices, which can be chosen by each user individually and a customizable GUI to stimulate recreational feelings, in order to overcome residents’ fear towards IT. The system is thought to be as more interactive as possible giving suggestion to the user and waiting for confirmations in order to minimize the need of physical input. The final prototype has been tested on the field with residents, who have shown a great appreciation of the product making them feeling not scared of technologies and giving us many hints for further developments.
Keywords: Joint program, innovation, multidisciplinary team, digital communication.