Our project team has completed the initial focus group interviews. We held several focus groups with participants of varying levels of cognitive impairment, as well as groups which included caregivers and community members. The focus groups concentrated on identifying the difficulties that brain injury survivors have while attempting navigation tasks.
The focus groups also discussed any tools or techniques used by survivors while navigating. While the tools and techniques differed with the ability level of the focus group participants, most survivors reported having a some difficulty with navigation, especially in unfamiliar areas. Those who were able to navigate on their own reported spending time preparing for trips to unfamiliar destinations (i.e. making step by step directions, making a "practise run" the day before, etc.).
To get feedback on the user interface for our assistive technology, we brought a prototype wearable navigation assistant. The focus group discussed the various formats for conveying information including: audio, images, and text, as well as modes of input: buttons and speech. Additionally, we discussed the complexity level of the directions in an attempt to determine what would be acceptable (i.e. "Turn right at the corner" v.s. "Turn right at the corner, then proceed to the crosswalk.").
Over the last 4 months we ran a special-interest group on community navigation held at an assisted-living facility. The group study has been completed and some initial data can be found on the Community Navigation Group page. To elaborate on and quantify the information we gained from the initial focus groups, this new group of approximately 20 brain injury survivors met weekly for 4 months.
The first few weeks were spent outlining the participants' normal schedules, navigation tasks, and difficulties. We also interviewed the participants about places they would like to go but cannot, or do not feel comfortable going to. At later meetings, researchers went with participants on "excursions" to try out various navigation aids such as spoken directions, written directions, images, and maps. Throughout the 4 months, our project team kept track of the participant's navigation tasks for each week, cataloging destinations, mode of transportation, and any difficulties which arose during the excursion. This data can be viewed by following the link above.
Beginning Field Studies
Based on the data collected at focus groups and during the special interest
group study, we are planning several field studies to test navigation assistance
prototypes. Our first experiments will focus on the effectiveness of images,
audio, and textual directions. We are currently designing several test routes
for participants to take. The participants will be using our prototype
navigation assistants with one of the aforementioned user interface styles.