Monitor on Psychology - May 2012 - (Page 28)
Design for all ages
Imagine a house that can help its aging occupant figure out why his arthritis is acting up or a robot that can remind your grandmother to take her medications. Wendy Rogers is working to make that future a reality.
BY LEA WINERMAN Monitor staff
he stereotype of the technologyphobic grandparent may be on its way out, as baby boomers enter their golden years adept at using the latest gadgets. But even people who are completely comfortable with technology face challenges as they grow older, their fingers get slower and their eyesight dims. As director of the Human Factors and Aging Laboratory at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Wendy Rogers, PhD, is working to make technology designers aware of older adults’ needs. She studies the cognitive and physical changes that come with age, and suggests ways that personal computers, robots and other technology might be adapted to better serve older adults. Rogers spoke to the Monitor about her research. What are some examples of the technological advances you’re studying that might make it possible for older adults to live more independent lives? On the Georgia Tech campus, we have an “Aware Home” that looks like an actual home environment. It allows us to test very early prototype versions of technologies, such as the Personal Robot 2, which is a human-size robot with very refined mobile manipulation capabilities. It can pick things up and
move through the house. Right now, to be healthier or to better follow their we’re assessing older adults’ reactions to doctors’ recommendations. This work having a robot deliver medications to is in the early stages of integrating them, and do tasks like data from different sources, like motion turning light switches sensors and actigraphs on and off or clearing [activity sensors], and items off a table. developing methods When we asked of displaying that older adults whether information in a they would like a meaningful way to robot delivering their older adults and medication, they were caregivers. very open to that idea. I’m particularly But then we asked, interested in trying to what about if the robot provide information were actually deciding to older adults which medicine As director of the Human that can help them you should take at a Factors and Aging Laboratory understand their particular point in at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, behaviors, such as time? Then they were Dr. Wendy Rogers works to their sleep patterns more reticent. They make technology designers and how that may aware of older adults’ needs. were uncertain about relate to arthritis pain. how well the robots would do it, and they also just didn’t What are some issues that understand how it could be done. designers need to take into So, I think if we start moving toward account when developing deploying robots, one of the things we’re technologies for older adults? learning is that it’s going to be critical One major factor is that our abilities that people understand how the robots change as we get older. So, for example, work, to build that trust into the robot there’s more variability in one’s motor interaction. control. There’s less strength, so physical We’re also studying home monitoring capabilities change. Our perceptual systems that can provide people with capabilities also change as we get older, information about their own activities. making it more difficult to see certain With feedback on, for example, what font sizes or to discriminate certain they’re eating on a daily basis, they might colors, and also to hear certain sounds. be better able to adjust their activities
M O N I T O R O N P S Y C H O L O G Y • M AY 2 0 1 2
If you would like to try to load the digital publication without using Flash Player detection, please click here.