Sep 292009

ETHOS is holding a contest for the best video to explain online risk to elders. The winning team must consist of current IU students, and will receive $1000 in gift cards. See the rules of the contest. Deadline for letter of intent: Oct 30th, 2009. Deadline for submissions: Dec 11th, 2009.

Mar 252009

A new project that has been in the works at ETHOS has been announced! The Ambient Clock, an iteration of the Ambient Plant, is a device that is designed to help seniors and their loved ones (and care givers) connect without the pains of introducing an unfamiliar device or going online.

Online phenomena such as Twitter and Facebook have shown that people have a strong desire to connect to their friends and loved ones and know what they are doing. The Ambient Clock aims to help users satisfy this desire in the home while remaining a common household object.

Some time ago if you wanted to know if your friend or loved one was around and OK, you would have to visit them in person. Today we would probably call, text, e-mail, or instant message them to check and see if everything is all right. What if you could just look at a common household item and instantly know? Especially in a care giver-elder relationship, having peace of mind in knowing that your loved one is up and about as usual can be very valuable.

For more information, please check out the Ambient Clock‘s web page, or watch this video!

Wii and Fitness

 Games, Health  Comments Off
Jan 282009

With the success of Wii Fit, Nintendo really seems to be focused on fitness and health oriented products (referred to as lifestyle games by the company).  Take for example Walk with me! a new release coming out on the Nintendo DS in February.  Consisting of an “activity meter” (which looks to be a suped-up pedometer) and associated cartridge for the Nintendo DS, the application promises to track your activity and those of your friends and family: 

Ranking yourself against friends and family is a good incentive to improve, but if you have bigger aspirations you can also find out how your activity levels compare to other Walk With Me! users around the world by viewing the World Ranking chart via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Or if you’d rather work alongside others than compete against them, you can combine your step data with players around the globe to see how far your total steps take you around the Solar System in Space Journey.

Also Nintendo is announcing the release of a Wii Fit Body Check Channel in Japan. This channel will supposedly send customized health advice based on data submitted via your Wii Fit.  At first this will only be available for employees of NEC, Panasonic and Hitachi in Japan.  Which raises some interesting questions in regards to privacy and health in the workplace. 

Jan 282009

At this years Consumer Electronics Show the industry focused on the senior market.  A wide range of technologies were displayed: monitoring systems, remote diagnostic systems, cognitive exercise programs, readers, and other tools that attempt to make it easier for the aging demographic to deal with and use technology for health, learning, and leisure. 

Though a step in the right direction, it remains to be seen if this commercial technology will actually assist the aging, or if it is just a new “market opportunity” to sell gizmos that do not achieve what they promise.

Jan 212009

The NRC recently put out a report on the major challenges for how to use technology for “effective” health care (prepublicaiton version). They have a lot of good things to say, including a focus on patient empowerment. It is nice to see this patient-centered approach… a movement away from an all-too-often paternalistic view of doctors simply telling patients what to do, and expecting them to follow their instructions.

They’ve also brought in a nice vision of what pervasive computing can do. Instead of focussing soley in current information systems and electronic health records, they include examples that are well-known to researchers in the field, but perhaps not thought about by medical professionals or lay people. As an example:

A clinician needs to know what medications an elderly, memory-
challenged patient is taking. Recognizing the important difference
between medications prescribed and medications taken, the clinician asks
the patient to bring all of his pill containers, both prescription and over­
the-counter, to the appointment. She asks the patient to place all of the
containers on a surface table computer, which automatically identifies the
medications in each of the containers and counts the number of pills
remaining in each container. The pill containers also carry RFID tags, on
which the initial fill-up quantities of the containers are stored. The table
can read these tags, and thereby make an inference about what pills
were actually taken and provide information about likely compliance with
a particular medication regime.

And now with President Obama recognizing the need to use technology to address our overtaxed health care system, we can hope the funding institutions like NIH and NSF will start prioritizing health informatics research.

Nov 182008

Inspired by service dogs, inventors at Laboratory for Perpetual Robotics at the

University of Massachusetts, Amherst, have created the uBOT-5, a helpful, uncomplaining, no-shed robot to help aging adults remain independent. The uBOT-5 can carry out simple tasks, monitor the home environment, call for help, and doesn’t bark or shed! But it does allow caregivers to “step inside” via the Internet and spend some quality time with their older loved one via video and audio feed through the robot. In the future, a doctor might be able to “step inside” the robot and perform simple blood sugar or blood pressure measurements. While this might seem like the inventors were channeling the movie “Ghost,” the idea holds a lot of appeal for aging boomers who may not have family caregivers nearby. Using service dogs as the inspiration for the human/computer interaction suggests an appealing way to develop technologies that fit older adults’ mental models of assistive technologies.

Nov 082008

Here’s a nifty little idea:

It’s a display which contrasts perceived v.s. actual risk. I think the visualization is quite nice, showing how much we, as a society, fear things that are highly unlikely. I really like their proposal to link it to location, so you can get a real idea of the level of risk.

I’d be interested in extending this idea to elders. They face a different set of risks, and their actual risk is not that of the general population. How likely are they to fall? To have a heart condition? Etc… It would be a nice education/awareness tool.

Oct 142008

Here’s a new product to help measure physical activity… and even sleep cycles: The FAQ claims that you can wear this thing anywhere and get over 95% accuracy for step counts. I don’t think any pedometer on the market claims to be that accurate, even when worn correctly, so I’m a bit skeptical.

What I do like is that the form factor is great. No more bulky little boxes on your wasteline! It also has a convenient interface for downloading the data (automatically when you are within a certain distance from the base station), and an associated web site where you can browse your data, and upload other types of data, such as diet and physical activites that can’t be measures by the device (swimming, biking, etc…).

One last interesting feature: wear it on the provided wristband at night, and it will give you an indication of how well you are sleeping.

Major drawback: can’t dump the data onto your own computer, but must use their website. All in all, an interesting new product…. and refreshing to see such a major leap in pedometers. Have to wait until January to see if it can live up to the hype.