VirtuAssist: the virtual assistant for people with learning disabilities in working environments
Lun, 10/11/2014 - Lun, 09/05/2016
Jesica Rivero Espinosa (firstname.lastname@example.org)
People with learning difficulties or memory problems face barriers in the working environment because they need extra supervision and reminders. New environments, unfamiliar equipment and changing tasks can be especially challenging and may led to frustration, reluctance to use new technologies and dependency on others.
To mitigate these difficulties, ILUNION – Accesibility, Studies and Projects (a software technology and consultancy company belonging to the business corporation of ONCE Foundation) led the proof-of-concept VirtuAssist. ILUNION – Accesibility, Studies and Projects is part of the “Expert consulting services” division of ILUNION. VirtuAssist was sponsored by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) and InnovateUK. It was part of the ‘Good to Go’ competition of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) managed by Jisc TechDis, a leading UK advisory service on technologies for inclusion. This competition is about increasing independence in unfamiliar or challenging environments by giving people easy access to the information they need when they need it.
Finalised in August 2014, VirtuAssist proved the technical feasibility of providing virtual real-time guidance through Google Glass in order to operate working equipment while keeping the hands free.
Objetivo del proyecto:
VirtuAssist aims to improve the quality of life and professional opportunities for people with disabilities (especially users with learning and / or memory problems), by improving their skills, confidence and independence in the workplace or training for employment when they are doing changing tasks or when they have to interact with complex or unfamiliar equipment.
This approach enables people to work with minimal supervision in challenging environments, helping them to understand what their duties are and how to complete tasks efficiently and to the required standard.
This real-time guidance is provided thanks to two tools: a website where the equipment and tasks are modelled (see a short demo in http://vimeo.com/109566643), and a Google-Glass application to present the previously uploaded information to the user in a fun, hand-free and adapted way (see http://vimeo.com/109713163).
Trainers enter information related to the equipment on the website including the name, description, physical appearance (buttons, trays…); descriptions of the operations that can be carried out and the steps to complete each one.
The Google Glass application is used by the person with learning difficulties or memory problems to receive real-time guidance in how to use the working equipment. The process is explained below:
- 1. Launch VirtuAssist application in Google Glass. As this device enables to have both hands free, the user can wear it while carrying out the task.
- 2. Focus the QR-code pasted in the equipment with Google Glass camera to identify the equipment. Through the smart-glass,
- 3. VirtuAssist provides access to the set of pre-recorded available tasks in order to guide end-users step by step.
- Select the operation the end-user wants to carry out.
- - People with learning difficulties or memory problems
- - Specialist colleges incorporating VirtuAssist in their Curricula will attract more students thanks to a larger range of students that can be taught, new training curricula on tasks implying using technological equipment, and more appealing courses thanks to the usage of cutting edge, fashion technologies: i.e. the Google Glass. Moreover, their teaching performance will be more efficient because of a system that provides guidance/training with minimal supervision, a fun and easy to use learning method, and a hands free tool to receive guidance while using the equipment.
- - Employers of people with learning disabilities will benefit from having employees capable of undertaking a wider variety of tasks, and requiring less training, supervision and support.
Innovaciones de la buena práctica
VirtuAssist improves the independence of the end-users, increases their competence and confidence, and ultimately enhances their life and career opportunities. In addition, the VirtuAssist smart-glasses are fun, stylish and unobtrusive in comparison with many other assistive technologies.
Logros de la buena práctica
The feasibility study and prototypes were very successful and Technosite has been awarded with further funding to progress their ideas from ‘proof of concept’ through to development of a prototype or demonstrator.
This funding comes from the second competition of the Phase 2 of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) –explained in second paragraph of this press release. Together with Technosite, two more companies have been funded to develop prototypes.
Socios y otros actores que participan en el proyecto
ILUNION. Accesibility, Studies and Projects
ILUNION Accessibility, Studies and Projects (ILUNION AEP) is the trademark of Fundosa Technosite SA, a company specialized in ICT solutions ranging from strategic consulting and technological development to hosting and graphical design. The portfolio of services of ILUNION Accessibility, Studies and Projects includes, among others, consulting services of accessibility in ICT, usability and social studies; design and development of web portals, mobile apps and digital content; Business Intelligence solutions; Accessibility and certifications of web portals, apps and digital documents.
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)
The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) is at the heart of delivering the Government’s growth agenda, and works hard to achieve strong, sustainable and balanced growth. The department invests in skills and education to create a more educated and flexible workforce in order to promote trade, boost innovation and help people to start and grow a business.
The Higher Education Academy (HEA)
The HEA is a national body for learning and teaching in higher education that works with universities and other higher education providers to help bring about change in learning and teaching. Our activities focus on rewarding and recognising excellence in teaching, bringing together people and resources to research and share best practice, and by helping to influence, shape and implement policy - locally, nationally, and internationally.
Innovate UK is the new name for the Technology Strategy Board – we’re the UK’s innovation agency, accelerating economic growth. We know that taking a new idea to market is a challenge. We fund, support and connect innovative businesses through a unique mix of people and programmes to accelerate sustainable economic growth.
For further information visit our website at www.innovateuk.org/sbri
Jisc TechDis a leading UK advisory service on technologies for accessibility and inclusion for disabled staff and students. We explore and promote inclusive practices, resources and advice for learning and teaching in UK higher education, further education & skills, and independent and specialist colleges. Jisc TechDis is part of Jisc but hosted by the Higher Education Academy with whom it shares support services. www.jisctechdis.ac.uk
Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI)
The SBRI programme uses the power of government procurement to drive innovation. It provides opportunities for innovative companies to engage with the public sector to solve specific problems. Competitions for new technologies and ideas are run on specific topics and aim to engage a broad range of organisations. SBRI enables the public sector to engage with industry during the early stages of development, supporting projects through the stages of feasibility and prototyping. www.innovateuk.org/deliveringinnovation/smallbusinessresearchinitiative.ashx
Testimonios de participantes
Sal Cooke, Jisc TechDis Director says, “The companies made amazing progress in the first phase. It was an absolute joy watching them work directly with disabled learners and employers using their feedback to adapt the designs.”
Test facilitators after user tests in Phase I:
- - “He normally would need many prompts about what to do next but he showed his
- independence in completing the task using the glasses and VirtuAssist.”
- - “Her independence of completing task without support was very impressive as normally would need guidance and reassurance from staff member but this independence was given just by following steps provided from VirtuAssist and Google Glasses.”
Students when they tested VirtuAssist:
- - “Glasses are very helpful! I am very happy with the glasses!”
- - “I have done alone! Another one!”
- - “It is cool!”
Tone A. Engebretsen (from GREP, Norway): “VirtuAssist could help our disabled employees to use complex machines, e.g. paper destroyer machines. When will it be in the market?”
Simon Gates (elearning manager in OHC): “It is so powerful that someone that is usually so reliant on staff feedback is empowered to complete a task independently. This project is clearly an enabler”
Sean McCann (elearning assessor in OHC): “I am amazed by the impact that this could potentially have on our learner lives”
Manuel Poza Caparrós (employment specialist in F.ONCE): “It sounds very interesting. In our piloting with EcaTIC, an end-user still faces barriers when using the photocopier, VirtuAssist can solve this gap”