[ASC-media] Media release: unlock our memories

CRCA Media crcamedia at starclass.com.au
Tue Aug 24 07:26:14 EST 2004


August 24, 2004


Australian Internet researchers are developing revolutionary technology to simplify the use of computers by older people and enhance the sharing of information. At the same time it may offer all Australians a priceless gift - access to the recollections, wisdom and experiences of their elders.

Working with seniors from the Port Hacking Probus Club, researchers from the Smart Internet Cooperative Research Centre and National ICT Australia (NICTA) are this month field-testing the first of a series of groundbreaking technologies designed for easy use by people 65 and above

"When we first talked, many older people told us they regarded computers as horrifically complex, unreliable and designed for experts - not for people," explains Senior Researcher Fellow, University of Sydney, Dr Aaron Quiqley. "We decided to see what we could do about that."

The result was Project Nightingale - named after the Nightingale nurses who, historically, cared for the elderly. Its first two prototypes, an electronic scrapbook and an electronic table, have none of the peripheral impediments of computers, no keyboards, mice, or complex software to master. Instead they can be operated entirely by touch, speech and pen, as you would with photos, notes and scrapbooks.

Behavioural research has shown the importance of reminiscing, as an aid to keeping the elderly mentally fit and socially active - so Dr Quiqley's team are working on easy-to-use technology that helps people to share memories.

"We're designing for those people who are approaching the decision of whether to stay in their own homes, or go into care.  The aim is to give people technologies that help them remain connected, socially and intellectually, and so able to live independently for longer," he explains. "In addition, sharing memories and experiences with your peers and family can be a lot of fun."

Research with the Port Hacking retirees showed that many people kept scrapbooks as a way of reminiscing, so the CRC team has designed an electronic scrapbook which can contain pictures, clippings, hand-written notes written with an infra-red pen, and voice notes.

"We've also designed it so, by ticking a box, you can put it on the internet and share it with your family and friends," he adds.

"Potentially, this offers a wonderful way to access the memories and experiences of older generations. I imagine a time when there are thousands of these kinds of recollections on the internet and you can order your computer to create a special program containing people's memories of a certain period or event - a sort of do-it-yourself documentary."  

The Smart Internet/NICTA team has also developed applications for an electronic table at which users can sit and pass around photographs, only the 'photos' are images on the table which can be manipulated - rotated, enlarged or copied - using your hands.

"We've tried to make it as intuitive as possible, so that you handle the virtual images in much the same way as you would ordinary photographs," Dr Quigley says.

Initial responses of users to the technology have ranged from excitement and delight to comments that it is "off the planet" and concern about the old problem of computers - having to learn a new skill every time there is an update. Dr Quigley promises to keep it as simple to use as possible.

Port Hacking Probus Club president Jan Barber says that being part of the research has been a very exciting experience for her members. "One person can accumulate so much knowledge and experience and gain so many insights during their lifetime that digging out and using all the information is really a problem."

The Nightingale technology offers a simpler way to do just that, says Smart Internet CEO Professor Darrell Williamson. "One of our goals is to help integrate technological innovation and social and behavioural science. Current technologies do little to bridge the gap between the memories of an earlier generation and a computing medium that enables them to be stored and accessed. In this, Nightingale is leading the field."

These new technologies will also bring radical changes to the Internet as a whole and the group is also working to understand and meet these changes. Dr. Bjorn Landfeldt at the University of Sydney, a researcher in the group says, "We are now working with technologies that use a large number of small devices that are very different from PCs, and the sheer scale of the Internet will change drastically with these technologies."

Project Nightingale is a joint project between the Smart Internet CRC and National ICT Australia, a publicly-funded company with a charter to build national capacity and excellence in IT research, training and commercialisation. Project Nightingale addresses National Research Priorities 2 and 3 - promoting and maintaining health and frontier technologies and a demonstration can be seen at the Australian Technology Park Open Day on 6 October, 2004.

More information:

Annette Dockerty, Smart Internet CRC, 02 8374 5086, 0417 220 866
Annette.Dockerty at smartinternet.com.au

Prof. Julian Cribb, CRCA media, 0418 639 245

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About Smart Internet Technology CRC

Smart Internet Technology CRC (Smart Internet) was established in June 2001 and is an incorporated joint venture between industry, leading universities and the Commonwealth and State Governments. Its key purpose is to develop new technologies in the Smart Internet arena, carrying out world-class research into disruptive Internet technologies that have global commercial opportunity.

Smart Internet is focused on commercial outcomes through the development of strong links with industry to take new products and services to market. Industry Partners have an intimate understanding of market demands and Academic Partners have an intimate understanding of the latest developments in Internet technology. It is this synergy that creates an ideal environment for collaboration and commercialisation of scalable, robust and marketable technologies.

Smart Internet Technology CRC is one of eight ICT CRC members of the ICT Council, formed in October 2002 to set a platform for sustained industry growth and enhance the development of Australian ideas and innovation.

The ICT Council, along with NICTA, CSIRO and DSTO are members of the ICT Roundtable, established in August 2003 to address the role of ICT in the National Research Priorities in the context of the ICT Framework for the Future and explore the interaction between the business and R&D sectors in ICT. 

Further information can be found at www.smartinternet.com.au

About The CRC Program 

Cooperative Research Centres (CRC's) are designed to encourage collaboration between industry, educational institutes and government by transferring research outputs in to commercial or other outcomes of economic, environment or social benefit to Australia.

The CRC Program is an Australian Commonwealth Government program funded by the Department of Education, Science & Training. Further information can be found at www.crc.gov.au


National ICT Australia (NICTA) is a national laboratory with a charter to build Australia's pre-eminent centre of excellence for information and communication technology. NICTA is building capabilities in ICT research, research training and commercialisation in the ICT sector for the generation of national wealth. 

National ICT Australia is funded by the Australian Government's Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts and the Australian Research Council through Backing Australia's Ability and the ICT Centre of Excellence program. 

NICTA was established and is supported by its members: The Australian Capital Territory Government; The Australian National University; NSW Department of State and Regional Development; The University of New South Wales; 

NICTA is also supported by its partners The University of Sydney, University of Melbourne, the Victorian Government and the Queensland Government. 

Further information can be found at www.nicta.com.au 

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