Object-based, interactive communication to support social exchange of older people

The aim of this project is to design and develop a communication technology to support communication and social interaction of older people in a non-stigmatizing way. In recent years the technical development of computer systems and mobile devices went on quickly, but the interface with which these devices are operated, mostly remained unchanged. Classical input devices like mouse and keyboard or small mobile phone keyboards turn out to be a great challenge for the elderly. New technologies with innovative user interfaces can help to support communication and social interaction of the growing number of older people.

Creative design methods will be used to develop an innovative product in form of an executable prototype. The prototype will be tested and evaluated by potential users in real life situations by means of three iterations. The target group is older people who have little or no experience in the use of computers, the Internet or mobile phones but want to use new, innovative technologies to maintain their interpersonal contacts.

One focus of this project is to investigate whether communication systems with tangible user interfaces are more suitable and intuitive for older people and whether they can improve the application and acceptance of communication technologies by them. Based on the research on tangible user interfaces, user-centred design and intuitive interaction, a communication system will be designed and developed. This system will be an executable and have following features:

  • Display of availability of persons within the social environment (support of different modes like I see, I can be seen, not available, don’t disturb, am away, etc.)
  • Establishment and maintenance of audio-visual communication between distributed places (many-to-many networking)
  • Interactive exchange of information and media with tangible objects like photos, recipes, travel brochures, etc.

It is very important to engage users in the design process and make use of their participation in the development of the technical environment. In this context, it is important to consider ethical issues throughout the whole development process.


Project details

  • Type: A national research project.
  • Project duration: February 2010 – January 2013
  • Project team:
    Hilda Tellioglu, Vienna University of Technology, Austria
    Lisa Ehrenstrasser, Vienna University of Technology, Austria
    Wolfgang Spreicer, Vienna University of Technology, Austria
  • Funding: Österreichische Forschungsförderungsgesellschaft mbH (FFG) – benefit Programm

kommTUi Beschreibung (deutsch): kommtui