A Mobile Virtual Butler to Bridge the Gap between Users and Ambient Assisted Living: A Smart Home Case Study
Ambient Intelligence promises to transform current spaces into electronic environments that are responsive, assistive and sensitive to human presence. Those electronic environments will be fully populated with dozens, hundreds or even thousands of connected devices that share information and thus become intelligent. That massive wave of electronic devices will also invade everyday objects, turning them into smart entities, keeping their native features and characteristics while seamlessly
... ing them to a new class of thinking and reasoning everyday objects. Although there are strong expectations that most of the users' needs can be fulfilled without their intervention, there are still situations where interaction is required. This paper presents work being done in the field of human-computer interaction, focusing on smart home environments, while being a part of a larger project called Aging Inside a Smart Home. This initiative arose as a way to deal with a large scourge of our country, where lots of elderly persons live alone in their homes, often with limited or no physical mobility. The project relies on the mobile agent computing paradigm in order to create a Virtual Butler that provides the interface between the elderly and the smart home infrastructure. The Virtual Butler is receptive to user questions, answering them according to the context and knowledge of the AISH. It is also capable of interacting with the user whenever it senses that something has gone wrong, OPEN ACCESS Sensors 2014, 14 14303 notifying next of kin and/or medical services, etc. The Virtual Butler is aware of the user location and moves to the computing device which is closest to the user, in order to be always present. Its avatar can also run in handheld devices keeping its main functionality in order to track user when s/he goes out. According to the evaluation carried out, the Virtual Butler is assessed as a very interesting and loved digital friend, filling the gap between the user and the smart home. The evaluation also showed that the Virtual Butler concept can be easily ported to other types of possible smart and assistive environments like airports, hospitals, shopping malls, offices, etc.