Differentiation of VICON outcomes compared to the state of the art

VICON Context Modelling Approach

Current context modelling approaches rely on the possibility to create a functional semantic description for implementation of a knowledge base. This is also done in VICON. – One main feature of the context modelling approach pursued in VICON is characterised by the representation of design recommendations such as indicated in the following example:

“Visual markings on the keys should be characters at least 4 mm high and should have good contrast with the colour of the key (e.g. white characters on matt black keys)”

The following Table 1 presents an overview of different context modelling approaches according to Strang and Linnhoff-Popien (2004), regarding an assessment of their functional and non-functional properties. Here “++” means a complete “+” a partial and “-“ no fulfilment of the property.

Context Modelling Approach

Partial Validation

Level of formality

Applicability to existing environments

Distributed composition

Richness and quality of information

Incompleteness and ambiguity

Key-Value Pairs

-

-

+

-

-

-

Markup-Scheme Models

++

+

++

+

-

-

Graphical Models

-

+

+

-

+

-

Object Oriented Models

+

+

+

++

+

+

Logic based Models

-

++

-

++

-

-

Ontology based Models

++

++

+

++

+

+

Table 1: Overview of Context Modelling Approaches vs. Functional and non-functional properties.

Regarding the requirements of the VICON project, partial validation, level of formality and applicability to existing environments were primarily important. This has been identified in the work of WP1 and documented in D1.4. Consequently, ontology based models were used in VICON for the creation of an ontology representing all relevant context aspects.

Virtual Human Modelling, Digital Human Modelling and Virtual User Modelling

Virtual human modelling (VHM), (digital human modelling DHM) or VUM (Virtual user Modelling) has been shown to be useful for ergonomics of working postures by Lamkull et al (2009) and of vehicles by Porter et al (1993). Our VICON studies in D5.1 and D5.3 confirmed largely these results in the context of older users suffering from mild to moderate physical disabilities.

The state of the art in using DHMs usually addresses body mechanics and, within that, the larger movements of trunk and. This includes a number of disability and accessibility related applications. In contrast, VICON focuses on sensory capabilities – hearing and vision. Where VICON addresses body mechanics it is at a fine level of motor control in the wrist, hand and fingers, rather than the larger arms, legs and trunk.

We have assessed, and in many cases trialled, a number of systems that are available for modelling virtual humans. These include HADRIAN which is based on SAMMIE CAD, DANCE, SimTk’s OpenSim, JACK from Siemens, RAMSIS from Human Solutions, Santos from University of IOWA, Human Builder which is the virtual user model for CATIA, Enovia and Delmia from Dassault Systems.. The results of these assessments and trials have shown that the extension of these tools to the context of accessibility for older and / or disabled persons is not possible for many reasons, mainly because the hand model is not sufficient or API’s to different CAD systems do not exist. Detailed descriptions of our assessments can be found in D1.3 available from the VICON website. There is no widely accepted formal way for the description of the virtual users, being able to also describe users with special needs and functional limitations, such as the elderly and users with disabilities. VICON has made efforts in this area and the results of this project are available for further advancement on this field. Table 2 provides an overview of contemporary modelling tools and their features.

Table 2: Overview of Modelling Approaches and their Features.

Table 2: Overview of Modelling Approaches and their Features.

VICON is also among the tools listed in the table, thus it becomes obvious that VICON differs from the other tools in respect that a support throughout the complete product design is offered including the sketch phase, while most of the mentioned tools solely focus upon the evaluation/testing of virtual products. Furthermore, VICON provides knowledge about users with mild to moderate impairments, whereas most of the existing tools either do not support accessibility assessment especially with users who have physical impairments.

User Involvement in Product Development

Existing methods of user involvement in product design range between “Design for-” and “Design by-” approaches. Kaulio  reviewed and compared seven selected methods including quality function deployment, user-oriented product development, concept testing, beta testing, customer-idealized design, lead user method, participatory ergonomics all having pros and cons for physical end products, according to the level of involvement (Design for-, with-, and by-) but also to the creativity of design and technological advancement.

  • Of these seven approaches, VICON focused on Quality Function Deployment by including recommendations based on customer needs as a framework for designers addressing people with age related mild to moderate disabilities. We tested this approach using (a) abstract User model (b) Environment model (c) Task model and used VICON to develop user interfaces of prototypes of washing machines, mobile phones and TV remote controls as end products.

User Adaptive Systems

VICON is an example of a user-adaptive system. This is a system that adapts its contents, structure and interface according to the user features contained in a user model. The user model typically maintains user properties such as preferences, interests, behaviour, knowledge, goals and other facts that are deemed relevant for a user-adaptive application. User-adaptive systems are used in many domains, including ergonomics, simulation, e-commerce, e-learning, tourism, cultural heritage, digital libraries, etc.

The approach used by VICON also uses task modelling and application modelling. Task models provide designers with a means of representing and manipulating an abstraction of activities that should be performed to reach user goals. VICON has based its development on the Hierarchical Task Analysis (HTA) approach, where tasks are described in terms of three main concepts: tasks, task hierarchy, and plans.

Application modelling can be approached from different perspectives, including architecture design, implementation design or interaction design. Model-Based User Interface design traditionally takes a syntactic perspective but can also take a semantic perspective, such as is seen in the CAMELEON Unified Reference Framework and the SERENOA project. This approach is more suitable for user interface adaptation.

Differentiation of VICON Outcomes compared to Related Projects

VICON was an active member in the cluster for Virtual User Modelling & Simulation (VUMS). The cluster was formed by four projects funded by the European Commission under the Theme “FP7-ICT-2009.7.2 Accessible and Assistive ICT” and is partly based on the results of the VAALID project (http://www.vaalid-project.org/). The cluster member projects are:

The main difference between VICON, VERITAS, GUIDE, MyUI, and VAALID is shown in the following Table 3:

VUMS cluster project

Main objective

Product Focus

End Users

Beneficiaries

Design Phase

VICON

Support designers by offering qualitative and quantitative design recommendations for user interfaces of consumer products in the early product developments phases; Developing a virtual simulation environment for evaluation of virtual prototypes with virtual user models.

Hardware UIs (User Interfaces of Consumer Products)

Designers

Users with mild to moderate physical impairments.

Sketch phase, CAD, phase, and evaluation phase

GUIDE

Development of a software framework for designers to create adaptive TV interfaces for elderly people.

Adaptive Software UIs

Designers

Elderly

Software development

MyUI

Creation of software adaptive user interface with respect to end user impairments.

Adaptive Software UIs

Beneficiaries with physical impairments

Elderly

Software development

VERITAS

Support designers in product development by a complex simulation framework including end user impairments

Software UIs

Designers

Physical, cognitive and behavioral/psychological impaired users

Evaluation Phase

VAALID

Creation of new tools and methods that facilitate and streamline the process of creation, design, construction and deployment of technological solutions in the context of Ambient Assisted Living (AAL).

Software UIs

Designers

Senior Citizens

Evaluation Phase

Table 3: VUMS Cluster projects – main objectives, product focus, end users, beneficiaries, design phase

Another related project in this area is the GLOBAL PUBLIC INCLUSIVE INFRASTRUCTURE (CLOUD4ALL & GPII). This project differs from the VUMS cluster projects in many aspects as it is not based on traditional user modelling techniques but rather on so called user preferences, which has to be identified for each device and context, and proposes the usage of cloud based repositories, which may raise serious privacy issues.

VICON has in common with these projects the broad idea of utilizing user models for inclusive design by the adaptation of user interfaces to user needs. The following statements provide a clearer overview of the differentiation of VICON outcomes compared to the approaches applied within the mentioned projects in the area of inclusive design.

  • VICON focused on older users with mild to moderate physical disabilities and on hardware interfaces of products like mobile phones and washing machines. Furthermore VICON differs from the other projects in the methodologies employed for user studies, user modelling approach, environment modelling, task modelling and technical approaches, e.g. the use of semantic web ontologies and repositories for the creation of models rather than declarative approaches using XML repositories used in the VERITAS project.
  • For the building and evaluation of software interfaces the approaches and methodologies differ from those for building and evaluation of hardware user interfaces. For example, a website (user interface) is represented internally either by DOM or SAX model accessed by a crawler, where a hardware prototype is represented by a CAD model and uses propriety API’s for access of elements.
  • VICON has used a novel recommendation driven approach to guide the designers at the different stages of the design process, while the mentioned projects primarily generated software code which was implemented to the envisaged user interface.