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Inclusion through user experience at World Usability Day 2017

  • Posted on December 13, 2017
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
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There are seven million individuals in the world, one different from the other. Design can find solutions for each of us. And, when design is blended with technology, solutions are even more powerful. This is the lesson we learned this year at the World Usability Day Milan 2017, organised by Bicocca University, Avanade and Microsoft.

Inclusive design can take many different forms. For instance, have you ever thought that an assistant for visually impaired people might be wearable? And able to whisper about what’s happening around, just using bone conduction? Horus is a wearable assistant able to read texts, recognize faces, objects, obstacles and describe the world. Saverio Murgia and Luca Nardelli are the brains behind it. Their mission is to harness the power of artificial intelligence, deep learning and computer vision to improve life for present and future generations.

In addition, what if we were even able to disrupt the actual museum offering, allowing a full art experience to the same visually impaired people? Tooteko made it work and made it easy. All you need are special sensors on a tactile surface, a high-tech ring reading the NFC tags and a dedicated app to receive audio feedback. And Serena Ruffato and Chiara Tramentozzi already inaugurated the use of this technology at the Ara Pacis Museum in Rome.

And even more, how might we offer a better future to young stroke survivors? This is the story that Roberto D'Angelo and Francesca Fedeli brought to the WUD stage. They are the co-founders of Fightthestroke.org, a Social Enterprise that supports the cause of young stroke survivors, as their little Mario. Mirrorable is one of their projects. It’s an interactive platform that allows a new model of rehabilitation therapy at home, specially designed to meet the needs of children who have suffered brain damage at a very early stage of their lives, with motor-level impacts. It’s an awesome example of inclusive design and I strongly suggest you to read the full story.

Likewise, a new model of rehabilitation therapy is at the center of the project presented by Craig von Wiederhold and Kevin Skobac, Moving Through Glass. It’s a Google Glass app that uses augmented reality, and dance, to help Parkinson’s sufferers. It leverages the heads-up display, bone-inductive audio, and verbal and gestural navigation to provide on-the-move access to proven dance-based tools, that help Parkinson’s sufferers to initiate movements, improve balance, set the pace while walking and get out of a freeze. 

During the two-day conference, we explored many other ways that design and technology can support inclusion, and all twenty speakers brought their own vision and experience. But I’d like to conclude mentioning Stefana Broadbent’s contribution, because it spotlighted a group of people that isn't top of mind when we speak about inclusion: vulnerable citizens such as the homeless, special patients, migrants and factory workers in China. The amazing ethnographic research conducted by Stefana and her students around the world offers enormous value provided by digital services to this group of people, that are “often digitally savvy, but socially excluded.” Offering accessible devices and tariffs, free Wi-Fi areas and charging spots is considered designing for inclusion, too.

 

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