Exploring the Role of Prospective Memory in Location-Based Reminders

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Virginia Tech

Location-based reminder systems (LBRs) are typically used to remind people to complete a to-do task at a particular location. People use their prospective memory to remember future to-do tasks. However, the current design of LBRs fails to take advantage of human prospective memory theory. In this dissertation, I propose a framework connecting human prospective memory theory with LBRs. My work applies human prospective memory into the technical design of LBRs. The goal of my work is to make the reminder work more consistently with how human memory works.

Prospective memory research suggests that encoding of the location and familiarity with the location have an impact on prospective remembering. I conducted two empirical studies to test how this theoretical knowledge applies to LBRs. In one experiment, I hypothesized that if the encoding stage provides a closer match to the retrieval stage in LBRs, then location recognition and task recall should improve at retrieval time. The results indicate that providing a first-person view (street view of the desired location) at the encoding stage benefits prospective remembering the most.

Prospective memory theory also suggests that the familiarity with the external cue has a significant influence on prospective remembering. In the second experiment, I hypothesized that familiarity with a location has an impact on the location recognition at the retrieval. The results show that the encoding interface is used differently for familiar and unfamiliar cities and businesses to support recognizing a target location.

The findings have implications for the design of future LBRs. I designed an LBR prototype by applying these empirical research findings and conducted a usability evaluation. Future designers of LBR should consider 1) providing more support in matching the encoding stage to the eventual cue in retrieval stage and 2) involving user’s familiarity level with the places at the encoding stage to provide a better user experience. My work showed the importance of using prospective memory theory in the design of LBR systems.

location-based services, prospective memory, external memory aids, augmenting human memory