Abstract

As the global population continues to age, there is an increasing need to develop technologies that support older adults in maintaining their independence and quality of life. To ensure that older adults can age-in- place in the comfort of their own living spaces. This qualitative study seeks to investigate older adults' perceptions of anthropomorphised smart home devices and their potential impact on promoting autonomy and well-being. The research aims to address the gap in understanding how older adults interact with emerging technologies designed to support independent living. Utilising a qualitative approach, the study will employ observational interviews to explore older adults' perceptions, preferences, and concerns regarding anthropomorphised smart home devices. To facilitate an immersive and realistic environment for the participants, the study will utilise the Data Visualisation Observatory (DVO), an innovative virtual reality platform. The DVO will provide participants with an interactive virtual smart home environment, allowing them to engage with four distinct anthropomorphised smart home systems. Each system will represent varying levels of human-like qualities, ranging from a disembodied voice to a child-sized humanoid robot. By leveraging the DVO's capabilities, the study aims to simulate real-life scenarios and elicit authentic responses from participants regarding their interactions with the anthropomorphised devices. Participants in the study will engage with the anthropomorphised smart home devices through carefully crafted scenarios aimed at simulating real-life assistive scenarios. These scenarios will prompt participants to interact with the devices in various ways, such as checking in on their well-being or seeking assistance with daily tasks. For example, participants may ask the device questions like, "Have I taken my medication?" or "How much sleep did I get last night?" These interactions mimic how a voice-activated system would function in a fully integrated smart home environment. The research will adopt a thematic analysis approach to analyse the data collected from the observational interviews. Themes will be identified, coded, and organised to uncover patterns and insights into older adults' perceptions of the anthropomorphised smart home devices. Special attention will be given to how the physical appearance and behaviour of the devices influence participants' perceptions of their perceived potential to have a relationship with such a device, against the risk to the individual’s sense of autonomy. Additionally, the study will explore the potential benefits and challenges associated with integrating anthropomorphised smart home devices into the lives of older adults. Through this research, we aim to contribute to a deeper understanding of how older adults conceptualise and interact with assistive technology, particularly anthropomorphised smart home devices. The findings of this study will inform the design and development of age-appropriate solutions tailored to the unique needs and preferences of older adults, ultimately aiming to enhance their independence, well-being and quality of life as they age in place.

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