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[Home Informatics / Assistive Home Care Technology]

Ravi Kanth Alamuri



Home informatics has gained tremendous momentum in the past few years. It has grown from an obscure field of academic research to being a mainstream ideology used in manufacturing many different products today. Home information appliances like a smart vacuum cleaner or a web enabled internet fridge are abounding in the market today. Internet access has boomed over the last couple of years with around 74% of all households with children having access to the internet (Livingstone and Bober 2004) . Ideas like AIBO and more lately Pleo which have been marketed as intelligent toys for smart homes of the future have recently taken off and are becoming increasingly popular. However all smart objects are inherently capable of doing more than what they are designed to do. In this paper I try to examine many of these smart toys and try to examine possible scenarios where they can be used in medical and assistive home technology by either adapting their software or by addition of extra hardware functionality. I then further proceed to compare these toys against each other in terms of their usage and features. At the very end I discuss the commercial feasibility and viability of these so called lifestyle products. The paper aims to describe the more hidden shades of the home informatics research domain and talk about intelligent appliances which rarely ever get noticed or discussed. Products like AIBO have always been looked at as toys rather than intelligent appliances which might form an important component in the Assistive home technology network.


Computers have changed the way we do things. From the way we conduct our business to the way we live in our homes.

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AI : Deep within

Based on the level of artificial intelligence learning of an AIBO, it changes its behavior. It may choose to obey or refuse to obey a command given by its owner.   AIBO is programmable using the Sony’s Open – R SDK. Many users have come up with some very innovative ideas as to how best an AIBO could be put to use. Some of the more interesting ones include using AIBO as a watch dog (Hau,2006). As the AIBO has a lot of ways by which it can communicate with external systems and other intelligent appliances such as other AIBOs it can be used in many other innovative ways. For e.g. an intelligent fridge that can read the RFID tags on the items to determine their expiry date and keep a list of expired food products in the fridge. When an AIBO approaches this fridge it can be programmed to download the list of expired food products in the fridge and warn the user when the user attempts to consume such unsafe food items.

AIBO: An Assistive Home technology tool

AIBO can also be used in patient care. A study by a few Japanese researchers has shown that elderly people living in geriatric homes with severe dementia have responded well to treatment which included playing with AIBO as a part of their treatment routine (Tamura et al, 2004). The study shows that AIBO was effective in creating an interest in users which stimulated learning and improvement in mental conditions of the users.  AIBO has also been used as a remote server to monitor patients remotely (Liu, 2006;Hubert 2006). The AIBO has a number of sensors which allow it to observe and interact with its surroundings.

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Friedman, B., Kahn, P. H., and Hagman, J. (2003) Hardware companions: what online AIBO discussion forums reveal about the human-robotic relationship. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA, April 05 - 10, 2003). CHI '03. ACM, New York, NY, 273-280.Hubert, R. (2006) Accessibility and usability guidelines for mobile devices in home health monitoring. SIGACCESS Access. Computer. , 84 (Jan. 2006), 26-29.Kahn, P. H., Friedman, B., and Hagman, J. (2002) "I care about him as a pal": conceptions of robotic pets in online AIBO discussion forums. In CHI '02 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, April 20 - 25, 2002). CHI '02. ACM, New York, NY, 632-633.Kahn, P. H., Friedman, B., Perez-Granados, D. R., and Freier, N. G. (2004) Robotic pets in the lives of preschool children. In CHI '04 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Vienna, Austria, April 24 - 29, 2004). CHI '04. ACM, New York, NY, 1449-1452.Melson, G. F., Kahn, P. H., Beck, A. M., Friedman, B., Roberts, T., and Garrett, E. (2005) Robots as dogs?: children's interactions with the robotic dog AIBO and a live australian shepherd. In CHI '05 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Portland, OR, USA, April 02 - 07, 2005). CHI '05. ACM, New York, NY, 1649-1652.T. Tamura, S. Yonemitsu, A. Itoh, D. Oikawa, A. Kawakami, Y. Higashi, T. Fujimooto and K. Nakajima (2004), Is an Entertainment Robot Useful in the Care of Elderly People With Severe Dementia? The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 59:M83-M85Wherton, J. and Monk, A (2006). Designing cognitive supports for dementia. SIGACCESS Access. Computer. , 86 (Sep. 2006), 28-31CIA(2007) CIA World Fact book, Virginia, Unites States [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html];Livingstone S and Bober M(2004) “UK Children go online”, Second report from www.children-go-online.net


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