AGNES: Connecting people in a multimodal way
Western societies are confronted with a number of challenges caused by the increasing number of older citizens. One important aspect is the need and wish of older people to live as long as possible in their own home and maintain an independent life. As people grew older, their social networks disperse, with friends and families moving to other parts of town, other cities or even countries. Additionally, people become less mobile with age, leading to less active participation in societal life. Combined, this normal, age-related development leads to increased loneliness and social isolation of older people, with negative effects on mental and physical health of those people. In the AGNES project, a home-based system has been developed that allows connecting elderly with their families, friends and other significant people over the Internet. As most older people have limited experience with computers and often special requirements on technology, one focus of AGNES was to develop with the users novel technological means for interacting with their social network. The resulting system uses ambient displays, tangible interfaces and wearable devices providing ubiquitous options for interaction with the network, and secondary sensors for additionally generating carefully chosen information on the person to be relayed to significant persons. Evaluations show that the chosen modalities for interaction are well adopted by the users. Further it was found that use of the AGNES system had positive effects on the mental state of the users, compared to the control group without the technology.