From scenarios to “free-play”: Evaluating the user’s experience of ambient technologies in the home

  • J. van HelvertEmail author
  • C. Wagner


The Ambient Intelligence (AmI) vision of interactive home environments with embedded technologies that learn from our behaviour and provide services in anticipation of our needs has been with us since the 1990’s. While the technical knowledge and capability to realise the physical aspects of the vision is now within our grasp, user involvement in developing and refining the concepts underlying this new intimate relationship between humans and their technologies appears so far to have been limited. This may, in part, be due to the very nature of the research and innovation process, in that technical competence is often far ahead of the potential users ability to envisage how such services could be usefully and affordably incorporated in their everyday lives. It is understandable therefore that user involvement in the early stages of development may be seen as hindering innovation. Instead, one approach has been to capture the user perspective in visionary scenarios, often written by the researchers themselves. These are useful for elaborating the vision and driving further technical innovation, however, they often assume an established relationship between system and user and thus avoid more mundane issues such as how the user might practically incorporate AmI technologies in his or her everyday life today or in the near future. If we are to make the transition from future vision to present reality we must at some point move away from the visionary scenario and engage with users in the process of evolving our existing home environments to incorporate practical and grounded AmI solutions. This chapter looks first at the notion of user experience and options for the location of AmI evaluation studies in general. It moves on to describe some of the key features of the Adaptive and Trusted Ambient Ecologies (ATRACO) concept and prototype from the user perspective and proceeds to discuss related research. The second part of the chapter describes a preliminary evaluation of ATRACO followed by a description of the design for the participant oriented final study that draws on Dervin’s Sense-Making approach. The authors conclude that the user experience evaluation has significantly contributed to the development of the ATRACO concepts in a way that ensures they are relevant to everyday users.


User Experience Ambient Intelligence Smart Space Activity Sphere Coffee Table 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Essex in ColchesterColchesterUK

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