An Environmental User Interface (EUI) Framework to Convey Environmental Contexts In Interactive Systems Design

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Virginia Tech

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 488 million people worldwide suffer from a visual impairment and of these about 327 million have severe visual impairments. Some individuals with severe visual impairments can navigate and orient independently in well-known surroundings, but even for these people independent navigation and orientation are likely to be a challenge in unfamiliar places. To overcome these challenges, assistive technologies have been developed to support independent wayfinding tasks; however, those with severe visual impairments often experience frustration when they try to use assistive technologies since these technologies lack address the environmental factors that influence their independent wayfinding.

This research developed and evaluated the efficacy of a framework called an environmental user interface (EUI). In particular, this research explored whether or not the proposed EUI framework was effective when used with user-centered design (UCD) to design a wayfinding system to capture environmental requirements, thus aiding those with severe visual impairments. Two studies, the first of which consisted of a requirements elicitation and the second usability testing, were conducted. The studies revealed that the EUI framework was indeed more effective than the conventional UCD design method alone in identifying environmental factors, and participants with severe visual impairments preferred to use the prototype designed using UCD and the EUI framework.

The proposed EUI framework was found to be an effective way to enhance the design process as it played an important role in eliciting a greater number of environmental factors, and hence produced a device that was preferred by the users with visual impairments. Both prototypes influenced how well the wayfinding tasks were performed by the five participants with severe visual impairments, but the prototype implemented based on the requirements elicited by UCD and the EUI framework was much preferred by the participants.

assistive technology, user interface, framework, wearable computer, participatory design, wayfinding, severe visual impairment, human computer interaction