Norman Alm

University of Dundee, Dundee, SCT, United Kingdom

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Publications (76)18 Total impact

  • John L. Arnott, Norman Alm
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    ABSTRACT: Non-speaking people who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems typically have low rates of communication which reduces their ability to interact with others. Research and development continues in the quest to improve the effectiveness of AAC systems in terms of communication rate and impact. One strategy involves making the basic unit of communication an entire utterance, and designing the AAC system to make the storage, retrieval and production of utterances as easy and efficient as possible. Some approaches take this further and include texts, narratives and/or multimedia material for use in conversation. AAC systems operating in such a manner require a structure for containing and managing conversational material and supporting the production of output during conversation. Ideally such a structure should be modelled on the way actual conversations proceed. A number of partial models for this have been presented thus far. These are reviewed in the paper and an integrated model is then proposed that includes both the structure of a conversation and the way in which an AAC system might produce conversational output (e.g. utterances, texts, multimedia items or combinations of these). Modelling the process in this way gives a structure with which an AAC system can organize the support and guidance that it offers to the person using the system. The paper concludes with consideration of three areas of development for further investigation.
    Computer Speech & Language 09/2013; 27(6):1194–1211. · 1.46 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The principle of introducing a third element to a stressful communicational encounter, to which both participants can direct their attention, and which can provide prompts for communication, has a wide potential applicability. We have developed a system to support the communication of older people with dementia, which uses this principle. The approach has uses in many settings in which there is a cognitive or emotional blockage to communicational flow, several of which are described.
    Proceedings of the 4th International conference on Digital Human Modeling and Applications in Health, Safety, Ergonomics, and Risk Management: healthcare and safety of the environment and transport - Volume Part I; 07/2013
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    ABSTRACT: Improvements in the power and portability of computing systems have made possible the field of cognitive prostheses, which attempts to make up for cognitive impairment by to some degree modeling cognitive processes in software. Research on interfacing directly with the brain is at a very early stage. However, in research into dementia care, a number of non-invasive research prototypes have been developed to support people with dementia in specific areas of functioning, such as carrying out everyday activities, holding a conversation, being entertained, and being creative. Findings from the individual projects which may have general applicability are highlighted.
    Human Centered Design - Second International Conference, HCD 2011, Held as Part of HCI International 2011, Orlando, FL, USA, July 9-14, 2011. Proceedings; 01/2011
  • Alzheimers & Dementia - ALZHEIMERS DEMENT. 01/2011; 7(4).
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    ABSTRACT: Reminiscing is a positive pastime for people with dementia but little is known about selecting materials to prompt reminiscing, particularly whether personal items are more useful than generic ones. This paper reports two small studies, the first using personal stimuli (family photographs) and the second generic photographs of annual events to examine their relative effectiveness as reminiscence prompts for people with dementia. Story telling and the types of information people with dementia produced in response to the photographs are examined. In response to family photographs, people with dementia told very few stories and produced quite limited information. When shown generic photographs, people with dementia produced quite detailed and emotional stories of personal significance. The findings suggest that personal items perform as a memory test for labels and descriptions of family events whereas generic items spark off different recollections in different people, thereby encouraging the sharing of stories and social reminiscing.
    International Journal of Computers in Healthcare. 12/2010; 1(2):177-198.
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    ABSTRACT: We detail the design, development and evalua-tion of Augmentative and Alternative Com-munication (AAC) software which encourages rapid conversational interaction. The system uses Natural Language Generation (NLG) technology to automatically generate conver-sational utterances from a domain knowledge base modelled from content suggested by a small AAC user group. Findings from this work are presented along with a discussion about how NLG might be successfully applied to conversational AAC systems in the future.
    07/2010;
  • Norman Alm
    Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability 06/2010; 35(2):62-3. · 1.02 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Progressive and irreversible cognitive impairments affect the ability of people with dementia to communicate and interact with caregivers. This places a burden on caregivers to initiate and manage interactions to the extent that they may avoid all but essential communication. CIRCA is an interactive, multimedia touch screen system that contains a wide range of stimuli to prompt reminiscing. The intention is that people with dementia and caregivers will explore CIRCA together, using the recollections sparked by the media as the basis for conversations. This paper reports an evaluation of the utility of CIRCA looking particularly at whether CIRCA can meet the needs of both people with dementia and caregivers to engage in mutually satisfying interactions. The findings confirm that people with dementia can use the touch screen system and that the contents prompt them to reminisce. The system also supports caregivers to interact with people with dementia as more equal participants in the conversation. The results suggest that interacting with the touch screen system is engaging and enjoyable for people with dementia and caregivers alike and provides a supportive interaction environment that positively benefits their relationships.
    Interacting with Computers. 01/2010;
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    ABSTRACT: People with dementia who live in care homes can have very little social interaction. Care staff have limited time to spend with each person and communication difficulties can make it difficult to get to know the person with dementia as a person. This paper presents Portrait a software tool to enable care staff to get to know a person with dementia quickly. An initial usability study was carried out to evaluate the system with inexperienced computer users. The study was conducted in two iterations collecting data on ease of use, preference of features, level of training required and how engaging Portrait was to use. Overall Portrait was very positively recieved with no major usability issues and all participants rated the system as either engaging or very engaging and fun to use.
    Computers Helping People with Special Needs, 12th International Conference, ICCHP 2010, Vienna, Austria, July 14-16, 2010, Proceedings, Part II; 01/2010
  • John Todman, Leona Elder, Norman Alm
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    ABSTRACT: The study reports an experimental evaluation of the content of computer-aided and unaided conversations on the same fairly broad topic (i.e., holidays). The computer-aided conversations involved volunteers and one of the researchers, who simulated a nonspeaking person using an alternative communication system, “TALK” (talk aid using preloaded knowledge). The unaided conversations were between pairs of volunteers. Transcripts of randomly sampled sections of the conversations and audio recordings of re-enactments of the samples with pauses removed were rated for social competence on a six-item scale (coefficient alpha = 0.83) by 24 judges. The content of the TALK-aided samples was rated significantly higher than that of the unaided samples (p < .001). The judges also rated the individual contributions of the TALK user and her unaided partners on how “socially worthwhile and involving” these appeared. There was no significant difference between the ratings of their respective contributions (p > .05).
    Augmentative & Alternative Communication 07/2009; 11(4):229-235. · 1.18 Impact Factor
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    Gerontechnology 01/2009; 8(4):236-246.
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    ABSTRACT: Older people with dementia are a particularly challenging user group to involve in the process of designing interactive systems that could assist them. It may also be difficult to involve family caregivers of people with dementia, as they are most likely to be older themselves and uncertain about technology. Paid care staff, whilst younger, may be unclear about the benefits of technology and lack confidence in their ability to incorporate it into their work. Over the past 7 years, the authors of this paper have worked closely with people with dementia, their families and professional care staff to develop and evaluate a multimedia computer system to support communication between people with dementia and caregivers. To achieve this, a number of user involvement issues were addressed, ranging from legal and ethical considerations of working with people with dementia to the reluctance of hard-pressed staff to add to their workload for a research project. In addition, developing and conducting evaluations and eliciting the views of people with dementia who have working memory impairment plus additional cognitive and social difficulties emerged as a central issue. A variety of approaches were explored within this project, which are described in this paper, including familiarizing the whole team with the unique difficulties posed by dementia, continuous confirmation of participants’ consent, and ways to measure enjoyment, engagement, and joint interaction using observation.
    Universal Access in the Information Society 01/2009; 8:49-58. · 0.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems are communication aids for people who cannot speak because of motor or cognitive impairments. We are developing AAC systems where users select information they wish to communicate, and this is ex-pressed using an NLG system. We believe this model will work well in contexts where AAC users wish to go beyond simply making requests or answering questions, and have more complex communicative goals such as story-telling and social interaction.
    01/2009;
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    ABSTRACT: We have developed cognitive support for people with dementia in three areas of activity : communication, entertainment and creativity. In each case the cognitive support was intended to in some way replace an effective working memory. With all three projects our findings have been a mix of expected results and surprises. We are still working out the implications of some of the surprising results. In this paper we set out some key findings from each of these projects, and the lessons learned.
    Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction. Addressing Diversity, 5th International Conference, UAHCI 2009, Held as Part of HCI International 2009, San Diego, CA, USA, July 19-24, 2009. Proceedings, Part I; 01/2009
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    ABSTRACT: Dementia is a growing problem that affects the lives of those diagnosed and caregivers, with symptoms having an effect on memory, communication, the ability to learn new skills and problems with behaviour, such as aggression, agitation and depression. Participation in activities can improve quality of life for people with dementia, reducing behavioural problems and aiding relaxation. Research has established that people with dementia can be both artistically and musically creative, and have an appreciation of music even in the latter stages of the disease. The symptoms of the disease, however, mean that supporting music making activities with this group of people is challenging. This paper describes a prototype system designed to enable people with dementia to create music, using a touch screen interface to control a system which utilises chords to create pleasant-sounding music regardless of any prior musical knowledge. Results of usability studies suggest the system is easy to use, and that pleasant-sounding music can be created with it. Participants, including people with dementia, appeared actively engaged during use of the system, many reporting they enjoyed the experience. Future testing will establish the degree to which people with dementia could be musically creative using such a system.
    Computers in Human Behavior. 01/2009;
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    ABSTRACT: Increased communication rate has long been a goal of both individuals who use AAC and device manufacturers. There is evidence that utterance-based approaches have the potential to deliver faster rates without loss of coherence. An overview of the historical development of devices that embody such approaches is set out here. This account focuses on the theoretical origins of utterance-based devices (UBDs) and the range of approaches that these have produced. Next, the issue of a causal relationship between conversational rate and positive attributions is addressed. Three recent studies supporting a causal relationship are described, followed by an account of a direct comparison between a UBD and a word construction system in office environments that involved a mix of transactional communication and social chat. Conversational rate and perceived communicative competence were both higher when the UBD was used. Finally, some issues for the future development of UBDs are discussed.
    Augmentative and alternative communication (Baltimore, Md.: 1985) 02/2008; 24(3):235-54. · 0.94 Impact Factor
  • Norman Alm, Alan F. Newell
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    ABSTRACT: We have been exploring a number of new ways to improve requirements gathering for new developments is assistive technology. In this paper we report on using participant observation, insights from conversation analysis and the use of actors, in order to gain a better understanding of the needs and wants for technology of people with physical and cognitive impairments.
    Computers Helping People with Special Needs, 11th International Conference, ICCHP 2008, Linz, Austria, July 9-11, 2008. Proceedings; 01/2008
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    ABSTRACT: CIRCA lets those with short-term memory loss draw on reminiscences to converse with relatives and caregivers. The system, which software engineers, psychologists,and designers developed with caregiver input, features a touch screen that displays photos, music, video, text, and other materials to help those with dementia access long-term memory. This paper presents a communication support system for older people with dementia.
    Computer 06/2007; · 1.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: People with Alzheimer's Disease (AD) experience progressive degeneration of cognitive skills and the cumulative loss of short-term memory function. This severely impairs their ability to communicate with relatives and caregivers. The 'dehumanizing' effect that is engendered by the loss of communication skills, and the subsequent psychological and emotional distress experienced by people with AD and their caregivers are perhaps the most significant and detrimental psycho-social characteristics of AD. This paper demonstrates how our multidisciplinary, user-centred approach to design for computer-based assistive tools for people with AD can support progressive, non-pharmacological intervention and promote improved quality of life in dementia care environments.
    Design Journal, The 02/2007; 10(1):12-23.
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    Mark Rice, Norman Alm
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    ABSTRACT: The adoption of digital television (DTV) could be particularly attractive for older people if appropriately designed. This paper explores the development of a novel interaction design approach specifically to support people who are reluctant or have difficulty using desktop technologies. Using a simplified remote control, four different navigational layouts were tested and evaluated with older users, primarily to assess their ease of use. The results presented indicate promising new directions in the development of visualization and navigation metaphors and concepts within the context of user-led activities on DTV for older adults.
    Interactive TV: a Shared Experience, 5th European Conference, EuroITV 2007, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, May 24-25, 2007, Proceedings; 01/2007

Publication Stats

488 Citations
18.00 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 1989–2013
    • University of Dundee
      • • School of Computing
      • • School of Psychology
      Dundee, SCT, United Kingdom
  • 2010
    • University of Aberdeen
      • Department of Computing Science
      Aberdeen, SCT, United Kingdom
  • 2000
    • Ninewells Hospital
      Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom