Understanding and Designing for Late-Life Social Communication
New Interfaces for Creativity, Self-Expression, and Sharing among Older Adults with Dementia
We are conducting field work to understand the practice of art therapy for older adults and through this have begun to prototype new hybrid interfaces that enable older adults and art therapists to capture, record, and share artwork. We are exploring the opportunities and challenges around content creation and sharing among vulnerable older adults online. As part of this project, we are also understanding the role of caregivers in online interaction for individuals with cognitive impairments.
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Voice-Based Interfaces for Late-Life Social Communication and Content Generation
We are designing new hybrid systems, which blend the affordances of offline and online technologies, to support older adults in staying socially connected in the later stages of life. Our work involves long-term field observations and interviews to inform the design of novel hybrid technologies and evaluation of these systems in local retirement communities. Specifically, we are designing and studying new voice-based interactions that exploit the familiarity and pervasiveness of traditional telephones. This work is supported by the National Science Foundation (IIS-1533340).

  • Brewer, R., Cornejo, R., Schwaba, T., Gergle, D., and Piper, A.M. (2016). Exploring Traditional Phones as an E-Mail Interface for Older Adults. ACM Transactions on Accessible Computing (TACCESS), (8)2.
  • Brewer, R., Cartwright, M., Karp, A., Pardo, B., and Piper, A.M. (2016). An Approach to Audio-Only Editing for Visually Impaired Seniors. Proceedings of the 18th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS), 2016.
  • Piper, A.M., Brewer, R., and Cornejo, R. (2016). Technology use among older adults with vision impairments: Understanding practices and challenges. Universal Access in the Information Society (UAIS).
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Understanding Older Adults Online: Blogging, Crowd Work, Social Media
We are investigating how older adults learn to use social media and their motivations for interacting online, particularly as one's socio-emotional needs shift towards the end of life. We are conducting research on older adults' current online activity through interviews, focus groups, and surveys to better understand how to support the full experience of aging online.
  • Lazar, A., Diaz, M., Brewer, R., Kim, C., and Piper, A.M. (2017). Going Gray, Failure to Hire, and the Ick Factor: Analyzing How Older Bloggers Talk about Ageism. Proceedings of ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), 2017.
  • Brewer, R., and Piper, A.M. (2016). "Tell It Like It Really Is": A Case of Online Content Creation and Sharing Among Older Adult Bloggers. Proceedings of ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), 2016.
  • Brewer, R., Morris, M.R., and Piper, A.M. (2016). "Why would anybody do this?" Older Adults' Understanding of and Experiences with Crowd Work. Proceedings of ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), 2016.
  • Piper, A.M., Cornejo, R., and Brewer, R. (2016). Understanding the Challenges and Opportunities of Smart Mobile Devices among the Oldest Old. International Journal of Mobile Human-Computer Interaction (IJMHCI), 8(2).
  • Hope, A., Schwaba, T., and Piper, A.M. (2014). Understanding Digital and Material Social Communications for Older Adults. Proceedings of ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), 2014.
  • Hargittai, E., Morris, M.R., and Piper, A.M. (2015). Understanding Differentiated Internet Skills among the Elderly. Abstract presented at the General Online Research (GOR) Conference.
  • Brewer, R., Cornejo, R., and Piper, A.M. (2015). Understanding How to Care for Aging Generations Online. Position presented at the Workshop on The Future of Networked Privacy at the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) 2015.
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Audio-Enhanced Photos for Older Adult Communication and Reminiscence
This project examines the use of audio-enhanced photos and physical objects to support older adult communication and reminiscence. We enable creation of and interaction with audio-enhanced paper photographs through custom software deployed on a digital pen.
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Applications of Surface Haptics for Learning and Communication
Haptic E-Books for Children
This project examines the design and use of haptic feedback within the context of electronic books (e-books) for children. We are using the TPaD tablet to prototype and evaluate the ways in which haptic feedback may enhance digital story reading experiences for young children and their parents.
  • Cingel, D. and Piper, A.M. How Parents Engage Children in Tablet-Based Reading Experiences: An Exploration of Haptic Feedback. Proceedings of ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), 2017.
  • Cingel, D.P., Piper, A.M., Connell, S., and Blackwell, C.K. Developmental differences in young children's uses of and responses to haptic tablet computers. Paper presented at the 37th biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development 2015, Philadelphia, PA.
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Exploring Affective Communication with Surface Haptics
This project uses variable friction surface haptics enabled by the TPaD Tablet to explore affective communication between pairs of users. We developed three haptic applications for the TPad Tablet (text messaging, image sharing, and virtual touch) and evaluate the applications with intimate couples and strangers. This work illustrates that users readily associate haptics with emotional expression and that the intimacy of touch in the contexts we study is best suited for communications with close social partners.
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Improving Accessibility through Surface Haptics
With our collaborators in Mechanical Engineering, we are exploring the ways in which haptic feedback can improve accessibility for people with vision impairments. In one study, we designed and developed wearable information displays for blind individuals using a haptic smart watch. We found that a physical clock face, compass, and numerical keypad are productive representations for presenting information haptically, and these models build on existing tactile and spatial understandings of our target user group. In another part of this work, we explored the use of haptic feedback at the operating system level on Android devices to improve touch-screen accessibility.
  • Twyman, M., Mullenbach, J., Shultz, C., Colgate, J.E., and Piper, A.M. Designing Wearable Haptic Information Displays for People with Vision Impairments. Proceedings of the International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI) 2015.
  • Jin, S., Mullenbach, J., Shultz, C., Colgate, J.E., Piper, A.M. OS-Level Surface Haptics for Touch-Screen Accessibility. Extended Abstracts of the ACM Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS) 2014.
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Previous Projects
Authoring Multimodal Language Activities
Hybrid paper-digital interfaces are a promising approach for supporting language activities. The familiarity of pen and paper makes it a particularly attractive media for many user groups, including young children. Digital pens enhance interaction with traditional paper content by playing and recording audio and recognizing handwriting and gestures. Currently, generating custom interactive paper documents involves some programming, limiting its use by many user groups (e.g., educators and families) who might especially benefit from application of hybrid paper-digital interfaces in their practices. To address this need, we developed the TAP & PLAY end-user authoring system, which allows creation of custom language activities using off-the-shelf digital pen technology. Project Video.
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Documentation in Early Childhood Education
We are studying how teachers in one early childhood education center document development for children from three months to five years old. Our research examines the use of paper records and printed photos in order to understand the challenges of transitioning to a digital record keeping system.
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Communication and Speech-Language Therapy for Aphasia
This project involves a year-long field study of the process of speech-language therapy with an emphasis on the practices of therapists working with adults with aphasia and apraxia of speech. We observed that paper is a pervasive and important medium for this therapy context. Pen-based computing combines the familiar and flexible nature of low-fidelity communication aids (e.g., paper picture boards) with the benefits of high-fidelity computer-based technologies. We present the design of a hybrid paper-digital interface using multimodal digital pens and report on two early case studies of use by older adults undergoing speech-language therapy. Following this, we examine use of this technology by a single therapist and older adult with aphasia over a 12-week field deployment. Project Video.
  • Piper, A.M., Weibel, N., and Hollan, J. Introducing Multimodal Paper-Digital Interfaces for Speech-Language Therapy. Proceedings of ACM conference on computers and accessibility (ASSETS) 2010. Awarded Best Student Technical Paper
  • Piper, A.M., Weibel, N., and Hollan, J. Write-N-Speak: A System for Authoring Multimodal Paper-Digital Materials for Speech-Language Therapy. ACM Transactions on Accessible Computing (TACCESS).
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Older Adult Health Care Support and Communication
This project examines accessibility issues of surface computing with older adults and explores the appeal of surface computing for health care support. We present results from a laboratory study involving 20 older adults (age 60 to 88) performing gesture-based interactions on a multitouch surface. Older adults were able to successfully perform all actions on the surface computer, but some gestures that required two fingers (resize) and fine motor movement (rotate) were problematic. Ratings for ease of use and ease of performing each action as well as time required to figure out an action were similar to that of younger adults. Older adults reported that the surface computer was less intimidating, less frustrating, and less overwhelming than a traditional computer. Finally, the idea of using a surface computer for health care support was well-received by participants. Project Video.
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Improving Medical Communication for Deaf Patients
Shared Speech Interface (SSI) is an application for a tabletop display that facilitates communication between deaf and hearing individuals. Our approach uses a mulitmodal tabletop system to support medical conversations that may be very personal and require communication through a means other than an ASL interpreter. With SSI, the deaf patient can ask the doctor questions by typing on a keyboard, and the doctor speaks into a headset microphone. As both people communicate, their speech spills out onto the table in the form of speech bubbles. Speech bubbles can be moved and rearranged around medical diagrams, transforming the ephemeral nature of conversation into a shared, lasting representation. Project Video.
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Supporting Small Group Learning with Surface Computers
This work compares the affordances of presenting educational material on a tabletop display with presenting the same material using traditional paper handouts. Ten pairs of undergraduate students used digital or paper materials to prepare for exams during four one-hour study sessions over the course of a term. Students studying with the tabletop display solved problems on their own before resorting to answer keys and repeated activities more often than students studying with paper documents. We summarize study activities and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each medium.
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Social Development for Children with Autism
SIDES is a multi-player tabletop computer game designed to help adolescents with Asperger's Syndrome practice effective group work skills. Individuals with Asperger's Syndrome traditionally have difficultly understanding accepted social protocols and navigating social situations. These individuals often describe the computer as a comfortable and motivating medium. On the other hand, tabletop displays are an effective medium for encouraging face-to-face social interaction around one computer. Through this project we explored how the design of multi-player tabletop computer games could encourage positive group work behaviors among this audience. Project Video.
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