Research and Contribution to Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality as driver tools for improving quality of life in ageing population: from training to solutions for intelligent furniture, smart habitat and AAL

Author: Ms María Victoria Gómez Gómez STSM Period: 2021-03-20 – 2021-04-20

ECI: No

Hosting institution: Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena

From ITC: No

PURPOSE OF THE STMS

The main goal of this STSM was aligned with the objectives of COST Action CA16226, WG-2 ICTs development: identify the state of art and research, as well as to summary innovative Augmented Reality (AR)/ Virtual Reality (VR)/ Mixed Reality (MR) solutions that could be integrated in a habitat environment.

The research was focused on the software/hardware solutions existing in the scientific literature and other investigated in European projects that are needed in an extended Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) where intelligent furniture and living habitat of the ageing population will be assumed.

Moreover, a second theme of research was focused on the use of these technologies (AR, VR, MX) as tools for training ageing population in the use of intelligent tools, home healthcare solutions, etc.

The tasks planned in this STSM were:
• To work on an updated survey about the use of AR/VR/MR applications and solutions focusing the study on the scenarios defined in WG2: AAL, intelligent furniture to improve living habitat, etc.
• To work on an updated survey about tools, toolkits, apps, strategies of using AR/VR/MR as training tools for ageing population for different purposes: use of new technologies, intelligent furniture, home healthcare or assistant solutions, etc.
• To explore the challenges involved in the massive adoption of AR/VR/MR in smart home/smart healthcare at home as ageing solutions.

The STSM was also conceived to open up research collaboration between both entities (UPCT and KIT). Both entities have a consolidated relationship due to their participation in other European initiatives and projects, such as IN4WOOD, MAKING 4.0 (https://making.eu) or ALLVIEW project (http://allview.eu). This has helped to go in depth with the tasks planned in short time.

Finally, the results of the work carried out under the STSM are being summarized to be disseminated to the research community. Firstly, to be submitted in and international conference 7th EAI International Conference on Smart Objects and Technologies for Social Good. After the feedback received, the collaboration will continue, and both institutions wan to research for an extended work, for further submission
in a high-impact peer-review international journal.

DESCRIPTION OF WORK CARRIED OUT DURING THE STSMS

Task-1: read recent work related to the application of AR, VR and MR technologies for the improvement of elderly people’s lives, habitat improvement, etc.; including real case studies, nursing homes, day care centres, etc. In addition, the candidate had to contextualise both the definition and the state of the art of the technologies under study.

The task was structured in three branches:
• Study and understanding of AR, VR and MR technologies.
• To learn about the fundamental applications of these technologies in AAL.
• To understand the methodologies and tools used to implement them in real cases.

Output-1: To develop the state of the art of AR, VR and MR technologies and their definitions, as well as the applications they have for the improvement of the quality of life of the elderly and their environment.

Task-2: Develop a survey and implement the use of AR and VR technologies with older people and analyse the results. For this, Virtual Reality headset and smartphone were used on a sample of 5 people between 73 and 80 years old.

Outcome-2: develop a case study and survey that provides findings and conclusions on the benefits that older people can experience through technology.

Task-3: provide conclusions on the work done, including the results of the case study conducted with the elderly during the stay, and possible applications of these technologies not only in nursing homes but also at home to improve the cognitive capacity and mood of the elderly.

Result-3: conclusions of the work carried out. Note that, given that the STSM only lasted four weeks and during the pandemic, the survey sample is very small, as the covid rules recommended interaction with people at risk.

DESCRIPTION OF THE MAIN RESULTS OBTAINED

The main results obtained with this work are summarised in the following points:
• The applicant has gained knowledge about the applications of Immersive Technologies for th improvement of the quality of life of elderly people and the most used methods.
• The candidate has summarised and contextualised the situation of technological disadvantage in the elderly.
• With the knowledge acquired, the candidate has carried out a small case study through a real experience, and has been able to analyse the benefits of the use of technologies and to conclude what are the reasons for the digital divide in the elderly.
• The above study has been summarised in the form of a survey.
• Finally, the candidate has synthesised the information and knowledge acquired in a report.

As main conclusions of the work undertaken, the fellow points out:

Technology is both a gamble and a very important hope for the future care of the elderly, both to cope with and help meet certain needs and to combat cognitive ageing. Today we can see the benefits that these new technologies bring to the care of the elderly in their own homes and in nursing homes, and importantly, to the people in their surrounding environment.

These benefits are bidirectional, with work being done to ensure that the elderly are gradually benefiting from technological advances, and at the same time, we are experiencing an increase in the silver economy.

With the global pandemic of Covid-19, older people have become more isolated, their contacts and social interaction have been considerably reduced. Both virtual and augmented reality can act as escape options for the elderly, allowing them to change environments, interact with their surroundings and experience stimuli that would be impossible for them to feel otherwise.

The digital gap between the elderly and the rest of society implies that the elderly have to make an even greater effort to adapt and evolve at the same pace as technology advances. Technology should be part of the present in a more inclusive, active and visible way, so that our elders are able to benefit from what new technologies can offer them, such as preventing cognitive decline.

The distance between the elderly population and technologies is due to, among other things:
• Lack of awareness of their usefulness
• Complexity of use and difficulty in visualising buttons or commands.
• Fear of breaking the device and losing the content.
• High cost of devices and applications
• Lack of training
• Cognitive or physical problems due to age.
• Need for help in its use.

Taking on new challenges is a great incentive to motivate older people and improve their quality of life. With these immersive technologies, such as AR/VR/MR, they can overcome problems of social isolation, share experiences, improve cognitive activity through continuous training, which can be very beneficial for people.
They can learn, stay active and overcome new challenges thanks to the wide range of possibilities offered
by the use of these technologies.

FUTURE COLLABORATIONS

The STSM performed by the candidate has provided an interesting report that could be improved by both institutions (UPCT and KIT) in a next work step. The final objective is to disseminate the work through the research community, including it in some of the WG2 deliverables. Some international conferences have been found where the topics of their call for papers are aligned with the theme of the work developed:

HEALTHINF 2022: 15th International Conference on Health Informatics: http://www.healthinf.biostec.org/ where the regular submission of papers expires on 14 September 2022.

ICT4AGWE 2022: 8th International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Ageing and e-Health: http://www.ict4ageingwell.org/. Where the regular submission of papers expires on 30 November 2021.

Both entities will continue to work on an extended work, to shape the final conclusion of the STSM, the use of AR, VR and MR technologies for the enhancement of active ageing. This continued collaboration between the two entities could open the door to a strong proposal for submission to a high-impact peer-reviewed journal.