March 27, 2012

Sound Reminders in the Home

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 9:05 am by mariawolters

One of the three projects I currently work on is the MultiMemoHome project. MultiMemoHome is a collaboration between the GIST Human Computer Interaction Group, University of Glasgow, the Centre for Speech Technology Research (CSTR), University of Edinburgh (where I work), and audiologists at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. We work with a charity that supports people who are Deaf and hard of hearing, Hearing Concern, and a telecare technology company, Halliday James.

The aim of MultiMemoHome is to create guidelines for designing home care reminders that are

  • effective: It’s easy to understand the message
  • adaptable: Reminders can be personalised to match people’s information needs.
  • accessible: The reminder is easy to perceive, even for people with mild to moderate sensory impairments.
  • acceptable: Listeners don’t get tired of all the reminders, and reminders are pleasant to see, hear, feel, or smell.

In the project, we work with four modalities, hearing, touch, vision, and olfaction (smell). At CSTR, we’re looking at auditory reminders – messages that can be heard. Our aim is to design reminders so that they are easy to understand, even if your hearing is not what it used to be, and even if there is a lot of background noise. Such reminders could be anything from a spoken message to a short tune.

Our work focuses on two questions:

  1. How well can people understand and learn different types of auditory reminders?
  2. To what extent do auditory reminders distract people from what they are doing?

To address these question, we are running a series of three studies. In each study, we ask people to act on auditory reminders that they hear while they are doing something else – memorising a sequence of numbers or words, reading text, or walking. We’re particularly interested in walking because falls are a big problem for older people living on their own, and we would not want a reminder to startle a person so much that they trip and fall.

As part of the first research question, Karl Isaac, the Edinburgh project PhD student, is looking at the effect of different types of background noise on the intelligibility of computer-generated messages. Karl is about to extend his work to distortions that can make speech more difficult to understand, such as reverberation due to room acoustics.

If that sounds interesting, and you’d like to get in touch with us about our research, the web site has contact details We also conducted an extensive survey that we used to scope our research plans; it can be found here and feedback is still welcome – no contribution is wasted!

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