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D4. Digital Assistants to Support Health and Independence: Development and Instructional Support

Principal Investigator: 
Travis Kadylak, Ph.D & R. S. Sreenivas, Ph.D.
Wendy Rogers, Ph.D. & Lyndsie Koon, Ph.D.
OSF Healthcare; Post-Polio Health International; National Multiple Sclerosis Society; Clark-Lindsey Village; Disability Resources and Education Services (DRES); Community Research and Resource Information for Seniors (CRIS) Health Aging

Individuals with long-term mobility disabilities are likely to experience challenges with activities at home, such as controlling their home environment, engaging in physical activity, interacting with others, and managing their health. Voice-activated digital assistants, such as the Amazon Alexa devices, have great potential to support this population in carrying out these activities as independently as possible at home with the ease of speaking commands. Alexa can be paired with a variety of smart home technologies, such as robotic vacuums and smart light bulbs, to help people with limited mobility complete activities at home as independently as possible. 

In this project, we are developing a suite of voice-activated digital assistant applications to support the health and independence of people aging with mobility disabilities. Lastly, since many older adults experience technical challenges with set up and use of these digital assistant devices, we will develop and test an instructional guide with clear step-by-step instructions to facilitate independent use. 

Learn more about how the apps and instructional guide developed in this project will be tested for efficacy and usefulness in the R2. Voice-Activated Digital Assistants Research Project.

Picture below: (left) A cognitive walk-through of instructional protocol for device set-up and use. (right) An adapted display model of a door with a traditional lock that can be fitted with the (Alexa adaptable) August Lock.


          participant and researcher during a cognitive walk through   adapted display model of a door that can use the August Lock.


Project Status: 

We have been working throughout the D4 project to integrate various environmental control applications for our users, like the Ring Doorbell to assist with answering the door in a timely manner and avoiding potential falls. We’d like to take that goal a step further to provide the option of unlocking the door through voice interaction, using the August Lock with Alexa compatibility (shown below).Our team has also started to research health needs among the target population, and the various commercially available health activities provided through the digital assistants (e.g., hydration tracker, stress relief, vital sign monitoring), which will follow similar user testing and integration into the instructional protocol. 

Select Publications: 

Koon, L. M., McGlynn, S. A., Blocker, K. A., & Rogers, W. A. (2019). Perceptions of Digital Assistants From Early Adopters Aged 55+. Ergonomics in Design, 1064804619842501.