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Ulster scientists develop smartphone ‘Assistance Agent’ for older people

23 May 2013

A new smartphone application, developed by scientists at the University of Ulster, could help older people engage fully in an increasingly 'self-serve' society.

Dr Chen demonstrates the HoD assistance agent on mobile and laptop platforms
Dr Chen demonstrates the HoD assistance agent on mobile and laptop platforms

A research team, from the University’s Computer Science Research Institute, at Jordanstown, is currently working on the app, dubbed as Help-on-Demand (HoD) assistance agent, which will provide location-based, context-sensitive and personalised assistance to enable older people to carry out and solve everyday tasks and problems.

The University of Ulster team is led by Dr Liming Chen, Professor Chris Nugent and Dr Mark Donnelly and includes researchers William Burns and Kerry Skillen.

According to Dr Chen, a self-serve society is rapidly developing where services can now be accessed and transactions completed by way of digital solutions, in most cases operated by the user interacting directly with the device (ticket and parking meters, airport check-in machines and home appliances.

“Many senior citizens find these new technologies overwhelming and complicated and as a result, become anxious, says Dr Chen. "This anxiety can make them reluctant to participate in social and cultural activities.

Dr Luke Chen
Dr Luke Chen

“The HoD assistance agent is able to provide context-aware personalised help-on-demand assistance services. Each user will have a specifically tailored user interface, which will accommodate health problems such as dyslexia and poor vision, and also location based context such as internet connectivity.

“It is hoped that the smartphone ‘assistance agent’ will be ready for real world trial and adoption by the end of the year.

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