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Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. INITIAL STEPS IN THE RESEARCH DESIGN
  5. HEALTH AVATAR CUSTOMIZATION
  6. NEXT STEPS
  7. CONCLUSION
  8. RESOURCES REQUESTED
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. REFERENCES

In this demonstration, we exhibit a prototype of our consumer health-oriented work (e.g., Clayman, E. W. Boberg, & Makoul, 2008) on an interactive system for people managing complex health regimes for themselves and others, such as their children, parents, or grandparents. A key component in this project is the opportunity for the user to customize a number of health avatars that can be used to represent the different people whose health information is under management. In our initial designs, we have explored a range of opportunities for customization, including gender, age, weight, skin colour, ability, and a spectrum of physical representation from “silhouette” to “cartoon” to “realistic”. These variations may be familiar to users of the system who have some experience with electronic games or virtual worlds, since avatar customization is increasingly common in those areas. We have, however, also provided a somewhat extended range of possibilities by including avatars in wheelchairs or with missing limbs.


INTRODUCTION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. INITIAL STEPS IN THE RESEARCH DESIGN
  5. HEALTH AVATAR CUSTOMIZATION
  6. NEXT STEPS
  7. CONCLUSION
  8. RESOURCES REQUESTED
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. REFERENCES

Increasingly, family members are living with the people for whom they are caring and are also overburdened with work in addition to their care-giving responsibilities (Spillman & Pezzin, 2000). Caregivers and people who do not rely on others for care have important health information needs. The internet provides access to information, but it can be difficult to discern which websites provide the most accurate or appropriate answers to health-related questions. Compounding the issue, the user interfaces for health-related websites are often text-heavy. Even when communicating directly to patients, health providers often have difficulty describing conditions without medical terminology (Houts, C. C. Doak, L. G. Doak, & Loscalzo, 2006). A few sites such as Cancer CareLinks stem from patient-oriented work (Clayman et al., 2008). It is this patient-oriented approach that is being taken in the designs for what we are calling the Centre for Health Information (CHI), which takes a visual (i.e., avatar-based) approach to searching for health information.

CHI is currently a prototype for a web-based health management system for individuals dealing with health concerns. The purpose of this interface is to allow individuals to manage complex health regimes, and to use the system as a portal to search for relevant health information (on medications, symptoms, nutrition information, etc.). CHI uses a combination of visual information and text in order to take advantage of the improved attention and comprehension that visuals can provide for health information (Houts et al., 2006). A key component in this project is the opportunity for the user to customize a number of health avatars that can be used to represent people whose health information is under management.

INITIAL STEPS IN THE RESEARCH DESIGN

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. INITIAL STEPS IN THE RESEARCH DESIGN
  5. HEALTH AVATAR CUSTOMIZATION
  6. NEXT STEPS
  7. CONCLUSION
  8. RESOURCES REQUESTED
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. REFERENCES

A few years ago, the principal investigators implemented a pilot project designed to provide a rich-prospect browsing interface for seniors looking for information about pills (Given, Ruecker, Simpson, Sadler, & Ruskin, 2007; Ruecker & Chow, 2002, 2003; Ruecker, Given, Sadler, & Ruskin, 2005; Ruecker, Given, Simpson, Sadler, & Ruskin, 2007). This study showed that even people at risk of failure in using online information sources were able to make effective use of a visual browsing interface. CHI expands on this work in two ways: first, to broaden the consumer base beyond seniors; and second, to expand the focus of the design beyond medications, to include other health information.

HEALTH AVATAR CUSTOMIZATION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. INITIAL STEPS IN THE RESEARCH DESIGN
  5. HEALTH AVATAR CUSTOMIZATION
  6. NEXT STEPS
  7. CONCLUSION
  8. RESOURCES REQUESTED
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. REFERENCES

These ‘health avatars’ will provide a default view of the human body that can be easily modified and stored. These avatars can be used to search for health information. For example by clicking on a body part, one could reach information regarding conditions relating to this body part.

In our prototype, we have explored a range of opportunities for customization, including gender, age, weight, skin colour, ability, and a spectrum of physical representation from ‘silhouette’ to ‘cartoon’ to ‘realistic’. These variations may be familiar to users who have some experience with video games or virtual worlds, since avatar customization is increasingly common in those areas. We have, however, provided a somewhat extended range of possibilities by including avatars in wheelchairs or with missing limbs.

Boberg et al. stress that avatar customization should bring fun and enjoyment to the user (2008). However, the primary goal for CHI is to be an informative system, rather than a game; for this reason, the available avatar choices may well be limited. Indeed, there needs to be a balance between the resources used for avatar customization and those used for other information-rich areas of the interface we are designing. If too many resources are used for avatar customization, then the system may either be slow or limited in the range of other functions available.

NEXT STEPS

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. INITIAL STEPS IN THE RESEARCH DESIGN
  5. HEALTH AVATAR CUSTOMIZATION
  6. NEXT STEPS
  7. CONCLUSION
  8. RESOURCES REQUESTED
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. REFERENCES

As we continue our investigation, our research questions include:

  • Is the concept interesting and useful? What are the potential affordances for avatars in guiding individuals' search for and use of health information?

  • Will different participants prefer different degrees and kinds of customization? Are there additional features that participants will like to see in the avatar design?

  • How will people customize their avatars: will they resemble themselves? What features will be most/least useful?

CONCLUSION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. INITIAL STEPS IN THE RESEARCH DESIGN
  5. HEALTH AVATAR CUSTOMIZATION
  6. NEXT STEPS
  7. CONCLUSION
  8. RESOURCES REQUESTED
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. REFERENCES

Through our interviews with individuals managing complex health regimes we were able to build on past research in the area of visual browsing interfaces, developing sketches of avatars and avatar customization methods with the aim of creating a health management interface for individuals dealing with complex health regimes. With our plan of using participatory design methods in the initial and upcoming stages of our design, our system will improve health information searching by consumers; our goal is to make access to appropriate information easier for patients and caregivers, rather than such access being limited in practical terms to those already particularly knowledgeable or well versed in health disciplines.

RESOURCES REQUESTED

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. INITIAL STEPS IN THE RESEARCH DESIGN
  5. HEALTH AVATAR CUSTOMIZATION
  6. NEXT STEPS
  7. CONCLUSION
  8. RESOURCES REQUESTED
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. REFERENCES

While the researchers will be bringing a laptop for the purpose of demonstrating the current prototype, a power outlet would be very helpful. In addition, a table and at least two chairs would be beneficial.

Acknowledgements

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. INITIAL STEPS IN THE RESEARCH DESIGN
  5. HEALTH AVATAR CUSTOMIZATION
  6. NEXT STEPS
  7. CONCLUSION
  8. RESOURCES REQUESTED
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. REFERENCES

This research is kindly supported by standard research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

REFERENCES

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. INITIAL STEPS IN THE RESEARCH DESIGN
  5. HEALTH AVATAR CUSTOMIZATION
  6. NEXT STEPS
  7. CONCLUSION
  8. RESOURCES REQUESTED
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. REFERENCES
  • Boberg, M., Piippo, P., & Ollila, E. (2008). Designing avatars. In Proceedings of the 3rd international conference on Digital Interactive Media in Entertainment and Arts (pp. 232239). Athens, Greece: ACM. Retrieved from http://portal.acm.org.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/citation.cfm?id=1413634.1413679&coll=ACM&dl=ACM&CFID=54101933&CFTOKEN=47256369
  • Clayman, M. L., Boberg, E. W., & Makoul, G. (2008). The use of patient and provider perspectives to develop a patient-oriented website for women diagnosed with breast cancer. Patient Education and Counseling, 72(3), 429–435. doi:10.1016/j.pec.2008.05.032
  • Given, L. M., Ruecker, S., Simpson, H., Sadler, E., & Ruskin, A. (2007). Inclusive interface design for seniors: Image-browsing for a health information context. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 58 (11), 16101617. doi:10.1002/asi.20645
  • Houts, P. S., Doak, C. C., Doak, L. G., & Loscalzo, M. J. (2006). The role of pictures in improving health communication: A review of research on attention, comprehension, recall, and adherence. Patient Education and Counseling, 61 (2), 173190. doi:10.1016/j.pec.2005.05.004
  • Ruecker, S., & Chow, R. (2002, October 24). The significance of the affordances of prospect in interfaces to health-related Web sites. Presented at the Human Factors in Universal Design conference, University of Alberta, Edmonton.
  • Ruecker, S., & Chow, R. (2003, March 25). The significance of prospect in interfaces to health-related web sites for the elderly. Presented at the Include 2003, Helen Hamlyn Research Institute, Royal College of Art, London England.
  • Ruecker, S., Given, L. M., Sadler, E., & Ruskin, A. (2005, April 5). Building Accessible Web Interfaces for Seniors: Similarity Clustering of Pill Images. Presented at the Include 2005 conference, London. Helen Hamlyn Institute. Royal College of Art.
  • Ruecker, S., Given, L. M., Simpson, H., Sadler, E., & Ruskin, A. (2007). Design of a Rich-Prospect Browsing Interface for Seniors: A Qualitative Study of Image Similarity Clustering. Visible Language, 41 (1), 422.
  • Spillman, B. C., & Pezzin, L. E. (2000). Potential and Active Family Caregivers: Changing Networks and the “Sandwich Generation”. The Milbank Quarterly, 78 (3), 347374.