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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Assistive Technologies, Volume 6, Issue 3
We begin this issue with two articles based on papers given at the Interactive Technologies and Games (ITAG) conference. The aim of the conference is to bring together academics and practitioners working with interactive technologies to explore and innovate within the areas of education, health and disability. The conference focuses in particular on the use of gaming hardware and software to implement accessible solutions, interaction design using new input/output devices and the increasing impact of ubiquitous computing on everyday well being. The next ITAG conference will take place on 23 and 24 October at Nottingham Trent University and the event is held in partnership with GameCity (itag.gamecity.org).
Our first ITAG paper comes from the University of Ulster and is authored by Michael McNeill, Darryl Charles and James Burke (Computing and Information Engineering) and Suzanne McDonough and Jacqui Crosbie (Health Science). Their paper deals with the evaluation of user experiences of rehabilitation games. The team comment on the recent increase in games-based approaches to rehabilitation, and the challenges that are met when taking this approach, based on their experience of working as an inter-disciplinary group for almost ten years. The team began by evaluating the virtual reality systems that were around in the early 2000s, and then video capture, and they devised a range of instruments to assist users and researchers in the evaluation process. This early work suggested that there would be interest in games-based approaches, and this was the next area to be investigated. The team looked in particular at what they found to be two key aspects: usability and playability. A number of games were developed, and the team then assess the lessons learned from their use to support various aspects of rehabilitation.
Our second paper from the ITAG conference comes from Rachel Tunney, a member of the Autism Team of the Inclusion Education Service and Maeve Ryan from Educational Psychology Services, both in the City of Nottingham. Rachel and Maeve investigated the use of handheld iDevices by teaching assistants who were working with pupils with autism in a mainstream secondary school. The project used an action research approach and worked with six teaching assistants, who themselves selected the applications that were appropriate to use in their own context, working from the basis that visual interfaces have been shown to be helpful for this group of learners. The mixed methods approach adopted involved the collection of quantitative and qualitative data. Diaries were used to log the findings of the project, and it was discovered that the devices could assist in curriculum support, visual structure, organisation, communication, social interaction, anxiety reduction, relaxation, reward, and motivation. The team also recognised the need for training if such devices are to be used most effectively.
Our next peer-reviewed paper comes from Saleh Al-Oraibi from Hail University in Saudi Arabia, writing with Rod Lambert and Ric Fordham from the University of East Anglia. The paper looks at the important area of the potential for assistive technology to reduce falls by older people living in a residential care setting. Data were collected in two care homes, and in the same area of England but with a different profile as regards the extent of dementia found among residents. Although, as the authors recognise, this was a small scale study, the team did find evidence of greater efficacy of assistive technology for this purpose in the setting where the level of dementia was lower. Falling also forms the focus for the last peer-reviewed paper in this issue, which comes from Gillian Ward, Nikki Holliday and Simon Fielden, all from Coventry University. The focus here was again technology for fall detection, but rather than an account of a particular project, this is a literature review of research in this area over the last ten years. The team also consider current views on these technologies held by users and health and social care staff. Findings included the comparative dearth of such technology in use in the region where the researchers are based, despite the growing availability of such devices. The researchers also found less support for the use of these technologies from staff than from users, with staff having concerns around privacy, lack of contact, training, and usability.
We complete this issue with two shorter articles and readers are reminded that we are always interested in publishing articles of this kind. In this section we seek to share short project reports, accounts of work in progress and plans for future research. In many cases, a short article can lead to a more detailed paper being submitted for peer review in the future. JAT Associate Editor Kevin Doughty from the University of York is the author of our first short article this time, and he looks at the use of low cost connected healthcare systems in developing countries. Looking in particular at mobile healthcare (m-healthcare) devices, Kevin looks at the use of basic handsets and text messaging. He suggests that the potential of remote access for Africa and Asia is considerable, and that as more sophisticated devices become available, this potential will develop rapidly. JAT would welcome more articles from service users and researchers working in the developing world.
In our second short article, Pradipta Biswas writes about the Guide project and Web TV. The project, funded by the EU, involved users in Spain, Germany and the UK in the design of suitable interfaces for TV-based services. A simulator was developed which would help designers experience the particular difficulties that may arise in connection with particular impairments. Taking a user-centred design approach, and with an emphasis on audio and gesture, the project also developed pointing algorithms to reduce unwanted movement.