The SmartAbility Framework was developed through a PhD conducted by Dr Paul Whittington to (supervised by Dr Huseyin Dogan and Professor Keith Phalp) recommend technologies based on actions that people with reduced physical ability (disability) can perform independently. Dr Whittington completed his PhD Thesis in August 2017 entitled “The Development of a SmartAbility Framework to Enhance Multimodal Interaction for People with Reduced Physical Ability”.
The framework encompasses the knowledge obtained from conducted requirement elicitation phases, technology feasibility trials and controlled usability evaluations. SmartATRS was the case study for the research that controls the Automated Transport and Retrieval System (ATRS). The smartphone system was developed by Dr Whittington as part of a final year project at Bournemouth University to replace the existing keyfobs that were found to be challenging for people with reduced finger dexterity. The two modalities of interaction are shown below:
During the research, technologies were utilised to perform feasibility trials and usability evaluations, comprising of:
- iPad: A tablet computer manufactured by Apple Inc. that runs the iOS operating system with the usual functionality (e.g. camera, messaging and web browsing). The iPad was specifically used to evaluate the Switch Control accessibility feature that enables the device to be controlled through head movements.
- Recon Jet: A wearable computer developed by Recon Instruments (also known as a smartglass) that comprises of sensors and connectivity features. The operating system (ReconOS) has an open Software Development Kit to enable applications for any activity to be created.
- actiCAP: Manufactured by Brain Products GmbH, the electroencephalogram (EEG) product consists of 64 active electrodes to non-invasively measure the electrical potential produced from neurons in the brain. Electrodes are applied to the scalp using a conductive gel and individually attached to the cap. The data collected can be analysed through ‘actiCAP ControlSoftware’.
- Emotive EPOC+: A 14 channel wireless Neuroheadset consisting of saline based wet sensors that are easy to fit and provide a high resolution measurement of electrical potential across the whole brain. The product is compatible with Windows, OSX, Linux, Android and iOS operating systems and data can be analysed using the Pure EEG software.
- Pronto M61: A powered wheelchair developed by Invacare with centre wheel drive using 6 wheels for a high level of safety and stability. The wheelchair is used as a basis to integrate technologies through the SmartAbility Framework and enable further usability evaluations to be conducted.
The SmartAbility Framework (formerly know as SmartDisability) and associated research is described by Dr Whittington and Dr Huseyin Dogan (PhD Supervisor) in the following YouTube video:
SmartAbility evolved through a three-stage validation process involving the user community at the Mobility Roadshow and local organisations and charities including Victoria Education Centre and Talbot Manor, as well as manufacturers of powered wheelchairs.
The consolidated framework consists of four elements:
- Physical Conditions
- Interaction Mediums
Physical Conditions Element
The element identifies conditions associated with reduced physical ability (e.g. an acquired brain injury or cerebral palsy) to filter the range of physical conditions into generic categories. The checkmarks infer that the condition is a contraindication of an existing disability, colour-coded according to the literature source. The specific conditions are categorised depending on the affected body parts; ‘Joints’, ‘Muscles’, ‘Vision’ and ‘Sensory’. The input to this element is the physical condition of the user, which is used to produce a list of affected regions of the body, leading to input to the Abilities element.
The aim of this element is to consider how the specific condition of the user affects their ‘ease of action’ in terms of Easy, Difficult or Impossible. Abilities are categorised into the associated regions of the body. The element contains a traffic light style grading system as the cultural significance of the three colours of green, amber and red is universally-recognised and creates a simple choice for the user to avoid ambiguity. Users will select the category that best describes each of their abilities, which will then inform the Interaction Mediums element, where recommendations will be made depending on the users’ abilities.
Interaction Mediums Element
The element describes the specific ability required to interact through each medium. Based on the Quality Function Deployment (QFD) approach of defining requirements, two symbols were devised to indicate whether each ability is mandatory or non-mandatory for the interaction medium. A solid orange circle indicates that the ability is mandatory, whereas a white-centred orange circle infers non-mandatory ability. For the non-mandatory abilities, the user must possess at least one of the abilities required for an interaction medium in order for it to be recommended. The output of this element is only the interaction mediums that are suitable for the user and forms the input to the Technologies element.
Specific technologies are identified in this element which can be operated through each interaction medium and six colour-coded symbols indicate the levels of agility, visual acuity and clarity required for successful operation. Agility indicates the motor skills required to successfully operate the technology and was identified as a significant factor from the Mobility Roadshow.
PhD Thesis (2017):
Whittington, P. W., 2017. The Development of a SmartAbility Framework to Enhance Multimodal Interaction for People with Reduced Physical Ability [online]. Thesis (PhD). Bournemouth University. Available from: http://eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/29895/1/WHITTINGTON%2C%20Paul%20William_Ph.D._2017.pdf [Accessed 20 October 2017].
Auto Express (2017):
Cox, M., 2017. Disability cars and driving aids: the new tech helping disabled people get behind the wheel [online]. London: Dennis Publishing Ltd. Available from: http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/car-news/101188/disability-cars-and-driving-aids-the-new-tech-helping-disabled-people-get-behind-the [Accessed 20 October 2017].
The Ergonomist (2015):
Whittington, P. and Dogan, H., 2015d. Improving life for people with disabilities. The Ergonomist, 542, 12-13. Available from: http://www.ergonomics.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/542-August.pdf [Accessed 20 October 2017].
IEEE Transactions on Human Machine Systems (2016)
Whittington, P. and Dogan, H., 2016d. SmartPowerchair: Characterisation and Usability of a Pervasive System of Systems. IEEE Transactions on Human Machine Systems, 47 (4), 500-510. Available from: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7707466/ [Accessed 20 October 2017].
International Conference on Pervasive and Embedded Computing and Communication Systems (2015)
Whittington, P., Dogan, H. and Phalp, K., 2015a. Evaluating the Usability of an Automated Transport and Retrieval System. The 5th International Conference on Pervasive and Embedded Computing and Communication Systems, Angers, France, 11-13 February 2015. 59-66. Science and Technology Press, Lisbon, Portugal. Available from: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7483733/ [Accessed 20 October 2017].
Ergonomics and Human Factors (2015)
Whittington, P., Dogan, H. and Phalp, K., 2015b. SmartPowerchair: to boldly go where a powerchair has not gone before. Ergonomics and Human Factors 2015, Daventry, UK, 13-16 April 2015. 233-240. CRC Press, London, UK. Available from: http://www.crcnetbase.com/doi/abs/10.1201/b18293-46 [Accessed 20 October 2017].
IEEE System of Systems Engineering (2015)
Whittington, P. and Dogan, H., 2015c. SmartPowerchair: A Pervasive System of Systems. The 10th International Conference on System of System Engineering, San Antonio, TX, USA, 18-20 May 2015. IEEE Press, New York, NY, USA. Available from: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7151932/ [Accessed 20 October 2017].
IEEE System of Systems Engineering (2016)
Whittington, P. and Dogan, H., 2016a. SmartDisability: A smart system of systems approach to disability. The 11th International Conference on System of System Engineering, Kongsberg 12-16 June 2016. New York, NY: IEEE Press. Available from: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7542943/ [Accessed 20 October 2017].
British HCI Conference (2016)
Whittington, P. and Dogan, H., 2016b. Improving user interaction through a SmartDisability Framework. British HCI 2016 Conference, Bournemouth 11-15 July 2016. Available from: http://ewic.bcs.org/content/ConWebDoc/56884 [Accessed 20 October 2017].
Whittington, P. and Dogan, H., 2016c. A SmartDisability Framework: enhancing user interaction. British HCI 2016 Conference, Bournemouth 11-15 July 2016. Available from: http://ewic.bcs.org/content/ConWebDoc/56902 [Accessed 20 October 2017].
International Workshop on Evolving Security and Privacy Requirements Engineering (2017)
Ki-Aries, D., Dogan, H., Faily, S., Whittington, P. and Williams, C., 2017. From Requirements to Operation: Components for Risk Assessment in a Pervasive System of Systems. The 4th International Workshop on Evolving Security and Privacy Requirements Engineering, Lisbon, Portugal 4 September 2017. Available from: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8054834/ [Accessed 20 October 2017].