Visiting PhD students finish their work with us

Photo (taken by Åke Holmlund) shows Ines with John Waterworth in the departmental corridors.

Somaye Rahini and Ines Ayed have been with us for the last few months, on short-term PhD studentship visits. Now they have finished their time here: Somaye has returned to the University of Teheran in Iran, and Ines will return to Palma and the University of the Balearics.

Somaye worked mostly on designing a Virtual Human Resources Development (VHRD) social network, including building an interactive prototype for testing her ideas. She also completed a paper that has now been submitted to a major journal in the area.

Ines has been developing games aimed at encouraging older people to exercise and improve their balance, using the Kinect platform. She made a set of movement games, with and without a cognitive puzzle element, investigating how this factor affects motivation and the sense of presence in the game. We are currently testing them with our Senior-IT group in Åsele.

We wish Somaye and Ines all the best for 2020 and their future careers!

New paper on meditative/restorative environments

Access to leisure and wellbeing can be difficult to arrive at due to constraints in health, income, location and time. With shifting demographics ( inversion of the aging pyramid) and increasing urbanization, there is an increasingly urgent need to improve access to leisure activities, particularly for those living in crowded cities or who have limited mobility.

We propose the use of 3D capture of majestic nature scenes and their display in a therapeutic context, as an affordable way to enhance well-being and to provide care to those lacking adequate access to leisure and wellbeing. Our approach to the application of VR-based nature therapy involves immersive media interfaces employing either contemplative (mindfulness-based stress reaction – MBSR) or active (mind/body based behavioural activation) approaches, both using environmental cues salient to end-users and developed within an inclusive design paradigm. The end goal is to employ immersive virtual reality and suitably designed human-machine interfaces to allow individuals of varying ages, means and abilities to continue to enjoy an optimal level of presence and engagement in the real world to preserve quality (and perhaps quantity) of life.

New book chapter in press!

We are happy to announce the new book chapter by John Waterworth, Mark Chignell and Henry Moller, to be published next year in the edited book:

Technology and health: Promoting attitude and behavior change. Publisher: Elsevier.

The chapter is entitled: Age-sensitive wellbeing support: Design of interactive technologies that modulate internal-external attentional focus for improved cognitive balance and behavioral effectiveness.

Presence and human development

John Waterworth presenting a paper on changes in the sense of presence over the lifespan, and how this might relate to some psychological problems and their remediation with interactive technology. The paper was coauthored with Mark Chignell, Henry Moller and Demi Kandylis and presented at the Presence 2018 conference in Prague. Video by Henry, and it’s he and Mark you can hear sniggering in the background.

The paper examines the relatively unexplored topic of changes in the sense of presence corresponding to individual development from early childhood to old age. How does presence change over the lifespan and how can presence-modulating interactive environments be designed to accommodate the needs of different age groups in the light of these changes? To address these questions, we adopt an existing framework for theorising about relevant aspects of the sense of presence, emphasising the distinction between presence and absence based on attentional focus, and the role of presence as a link between intentions and actions. We explore changes in presence and absence over the course of the human lifespan, and in relation to various psychological and cognitive problems. This includes a consideration of the significance of age-specific changes in levels of consciousness, as revealed through patterns of waking, sleeping and dreaming. Finally, we explore the implications of our position for the design of interactive environments, especially as applied to psychotherapy, and to cognitive training and development.

Presence and human development: age-specific variations in presence and their implications for the design of life-enhancing interactive applications

John A. Waterworth(1) Mark Chignell(2) Henry Moller(2) Demi Kandylis(3) Umeå University(1), University of Toronto(2), Ontario College of Art and Design(3)

IT Seniors try VR

Yesterday our IT-Senior group in Åsele had the opportunity to try out a basic VR implementation, during one of our regular bi-weekly meetings at Åsele Library. Although they found it interesting, they were not overly impressed! They did think it might be interesting to visit a famous place in VR, and have a virtual look around. They were also in favour of using augmented reality (AR) to enhance the experience of going to a museum or art gallery.

Old people are our future!

Throughout the developed world more people live longer, whereas childbirth rates are relatively static or even falling. The result is that as time passes, there are more and more old people in society. Today’s young people, and in turn their children, will grow old in a society of increasingly old people. They will be part of a future in which most can expect to live past 100 years, and some will live much longer. That is our collective future, and it is also our personal future. Unless we are unlucky, we will all live a long time by historical standards, and for much of that time we will be old.

But what quality of life do old people have, and can improve it with ICT? The Q-Life research group has been looking into these questions for several years, largely supported by research funding from the European Union, and the work continues. Currently we are busy with the Senior-IT group in Åsele, as part of the PLACE-EE project. Our Swedish elderly users are trying out ideas and will be testing components and prototypes as the work progresses.

There is a mistaken idea that new ICT is for the young, and that old people are not interested. With our users we have found that this is simply not true. They are very interested, and ICT can improve their lives and wellbeing, if only it is introduced and applied in the right way.  Our users have become ambassadors for innovative technology and how it can be part of a better life for the elderly – for the future of all of us who will get older – in other words, for everyone!