Strathclyde Telegraph

Strathclyde academic to research the effect of ageing on the ability to use smart phones

By Ellie Smith

Dr Mark Dunlop, from Strathclyde University’s Computer and Information Sciences Department, will be carrying out research into the effect that ageing has on people’s ability to use touch screen mobile technology.

This investigation will examine how the effects of ageing, for example decreasing visual and motor ability, can impede the use of mobile technologies such as smart phones. Touch screen technology is commonly used nowadays for many essential and popular phone features such as web searches, email, social networking and texting.

Dr Dunlop said: “While there have been numerous studies into text entry usage on touchscreens, there has been very little work studying the effects of ageing on text entry – and none on modern touch-screen phones where reduced visual acuity, reduced motor control and reduced working memory are all likely to have an impact.

“The project is also likely to give initial insights into the needs of other specific groups of people that could be taken up with future research, for example looking at systems to support tremor problems associated with Parkinson’s disease, or for highly-visible keyboards for visually-impaired people.”

Dr Dunlop and his team will be working with older adults to conduct participatory design sessions of prototype keyboards, and testing how well these adults are able to use the different forms of touch-screen entry methods.

In addition, research will be conducted into how the design features of most modern mobile technology affects text entry for older people; for example the use of soft, glossy keys which have no discernible gap between them and require little pressure when being used.

Assisted by £286,000 of funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Dr Dunlop’s investigation will be carried out over the next two years.

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