Thursday, November 05, 2009

Visit to Bruxelles: Research strategies in the European Commission and more

The meetingroom for the first external review of HANDSSeptember 21th to 24th paid EC a visit due to the first external review of HANDS. I held a numb er of meetings with interesting officials being responsible for a part of the research policy of European Commision. I held meeting with project officer of HANDS, Giorgio Zoia, Joanna Namorado, technical project officer within the medicine area responsible for ethical approval and finally Peter Wintlev-Jensen, head of a research programme within HANDS' area and a dane.
All talks were very interesting but I have only given a resume of the last one. Peter Wintlev-Jensen sketched an outline of the demands to existing consortiums and future research applications. Demands that HANDS are targeting very well.

But first - business: the external review
The European Commision buildings where the external review took place. Miklos Gyori and Jaap Erasmus are in front
The review is a vital part of the ECs quality initiatives. To me it was like AAU project evaluation with 3 examinators and 8 projectmembers, 8 hours and the whole Consortium budget at stake. We managed, had a good time and got minor numbers of extensions to existing deliverables. The HANDS participants were having a good spirit and the reviewers did, I believe, enjoyed that. We did.

8 hours is a long time and afterwards Miklos Gyori(ELTE University, Jaap Erasmus(Helen Allison School) and I went to a bar to enjoy our own compagny and talk about all the other HANDS issues. It was really nice.

Peter Wintlev – European Commisions strategy and technology considerations

Peter Wintlev-Jensen is Head of a sub department in the Sector, “ ICT for Inclusion”. And a very interesting man. Basically because he is so involved in the Commisions research strategy that he says “We” when he talks about the strategy of the European Commision(EC) within the E-inclusion.

The focus of our talk was for that reason Research strategy and the way EC collaborates with their external partners.

First of all he made the foundation for the ECs

interest in E-inclusion and Ageing is easily understandable: The European countries will within 5-10 years suffer from increasing extra costs in caretaking of the rapidly growing elderly population. And to that problem the labour market in all European countries will lack labour force. On the other hand the endavours of the Commision to create technological solutions to the challenges and the coming American health reform will establish a new market for healthcare technology.

The European Commission is given the task to find valuable technological solution to the problem and have a significant budget. A list of the ongoing FP7-projects have the E-inclusion department is downloadable here. It naturally includes HANDS J

We talked a lot – I believe 1 hour. And it was a great joy to me meeting a person “on the other side of the desk” being kind, qualified and amusing. In this posting I would explain only two important terms in ECs research strategy Open Platform and Mass customisation.

Mass customisation

Peter Vintlev-Jensen explained that the technological solutions should be adapted to the single elderly or disintegrated citizen in one way or the other. Preferably in an intelligent ambient way.
The need of customisation is in my opinion right and the identification of the tradeoff between the need for customisation and the citizens, the caretakers and the organisations ability to do the customisation is right too. In HANDS we do
identify the same tradeoff when applying the slogan “One for each”.

But in Persuasive Technology the customisation can be viewed as a process that could be used for persuasive activities as well and give citizen and caretakers and opportunity to be aware of the goals and the needs for changes in behaviours that in many settings are needed when introducing new technology.

Open System Reference Architecture

As an integral part of the idea of mass customisation the various technological solutions should be embeddable with each other which will be mass communication on a component level. E.g. data from a component that measure brain activity should be embeddable with a diary about the citizens behaviour and the registration of medicin take.

Again I find it a valuable perspective on the research projects within e-inclusion. Unfortunately did I not interrogate the meaning of the Open Platform concept.

In two respects the concept is vague:

Technologically – are a Google solution with Open APIs the solution or are a service architecture of interest.

Business modelling – are EC considering Open source as business models or new and not yet developed models.

A description of the Open System Reference Architecture is found on workprogram-abstraction level here

It was obvious that Peter Wintlev-Jensen was aware that not only researchers and users should have a interest in the research project. But the industrial interest was crucial for the single research project as well as for overall EC strategy of development of welfare technologies.

E.g. at workshops about new E-inclusion it was valuable for EC to get indication of industrial interest in potential new calls.

In HANDS we experience the need for such integration and HANDS ought to be considered as such Open Platform component. The population for individuals with ASD is simply too small and varies too much. We would appreciate the ability to be combined and combine HANDS with sensor technology data.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The HANDS Stockholm meeting 2009

The HANDS Consortium invited all partners to join the meeting in Stockholm. Approximately 30-40 partners joined a lively, effective and joyfull 3 days setting. The images within this post constitutes a photo gallery of the Stockholm meeting(42mb).

"The meeting in Stockholm was very pleasant and very interesting",
projectcoordinator Peter Øhrstrøm said, when HANDS/AAU evaluated the Stockholm meeting. Everybody agreed. Me tod and the photos in this postings shows it.

It takes a while to grasp it. I was - as usually - very stressed and excited about the meeting but seeing the other participants, having a cup of tea and a good talk at the breakfast, drinking a glass of beer after the meetings in the night with the partners and discussing next years issues at the meeting was indeed pleasant.

I tend to forget what actually took place at the meeting when the consortium is socially in such a good shape. Working in a interdisciplinary and international consortium the good atmosphere is an prerequisite for success. And a prerequisite for the wish that HANDS can be software that improves the social skills of the pupil with autism.

Effective meeting - what did we discuss?
The meeting was divided into

  • General meeting
  • Researchers workshop
  • Teachers workshop
  • Discussion with Ethical Board
  • The working dinner at the Archepelago of Stockholm

General meeting
The general meeting had to main issues. Anca Rarau and her team at Wirtek Romania made a presentation of the present version of the HANDS toolset. On the server and on the smartphone. It was an exciting moment. The people in Wirtek Romania have been doing a real good job despite the fact that they had no prior knowledge about autism or persuasive technology. Naturally has the software not been fully developed but the interaction was exciting and the identity with the specifications was impressive.

The test on the schools was the other important issue at the general meeting. Joseph Mintz is responsible for the WP6 "Testing on the Schools" and he is doing very well. He and his colleague, Cristina de Vecchi has both been employed as at teacher caretaking pupils with autism and they know how schools and teachers work. Despite that fact, much work remain.

Researchers workshop
During this session researchers introduced to articles that they where about the write or wanted to write. I recall in particurlar my own talk(!) It was about my phd proposal that I am going to submit after summer(09). I suggested that the division between qualititative research methodology and quantitative methodology within the humanistic research areas will be changed due to the fact that quantitative reality-close datacollection will be less costly in the future. The data logging of HANDS is an example. The electronic footprints are collected without costs. Only the analysis costs. With new and cheap sensor technology the division between qualitative and quantitative methodology will change.
Partners found the proposal interesting and some found it highly creative.

I do apoligise my poor memory about the other presentations. But I do remember that there was a growing understanding of the need for common collaboration where the test results of prototype 1 and 2 could be highly valuable. A mixed method research project that not has been forseen in the workplan of HANDS.

Teachers workshop
I did not participate in the Teachers workshop. The workshop was about how to use the CoMe(Credibility-O-Meter -teacher application) and the workshop was guided by Kristian and Torsten from Egebakken that gave some pupil cases in which the the HANDS could be used.
It was lively.

And they discussed the translation of the HANDS toolset to hungarian, danish, swedish and english. New and innovative ideas demands an the invention of new terms and words. Not a easy discussion but necessary.

Furthermore they discussed the support system for use when testing the software. The teachers agreed to have a combined help and requirements system integrated in the HANDS moodlesite. The teacher can at any webpage click a questionmark-icon and they will get access to a HANDS discussion about that site. A discussion that is a supportpage as well.
I believe it is valuable that teacher can see comments and postings from other teachers instead of being left alone.

Discussion with Ethical Board

The Ethical Board had finally reviewed our test setup. What was expected to be a undramatical walk over was far more complicated than anybody had thought of. Including - I believe - the Ethical Board.

They had a number of modifications. Most of them was minor and easy to manage. The most severe reservation regarded the use of testpersons. Whether they should have the right to use the HANDS smartphone inbetween the two prototype tests and if they should have the right to continue to use the HANDS smartphone at all. One of the test of HANDS uses some pupils as controlgroup and the controlgroup should not use HANDS smartphones. On the other hand giving pupil with autism cognitive support systems and taking them away again could cause real troubles and Ethical Board disliked the test setup.
The meeting had a discussing and agreed to work on a solution. Afterwards have the consortium found an solution.

The working dinner at the Archipelago of Stockholm

Finally the swedish hosts had made a great arrangement. A very nice conference site, close to Alta Stan of Stockholm, dinner at Svedenskolan(including HANDS cakes!) and a wonder working dinner in a boat sailing in the wonderful archipelago of Stockholm. At a beautiful light. We sang - yet another HANDS song "He's got the whole world in his HANDS".

Thank you, Svedenskolan!

Pirkko, Gun-Marie and Tobias



Morten Aagaard

Monday, June 15, 2009

HANDS Year 1 - Only good news!

Hi everybody,
Despite the fact that I have not been posting news on my blog for about a year the visitors keeps comming. Thank you. This post do possibly sound odd but good news for a 3,5 mill euro big project is actually good news for pupils, parent, psychologists and teachers around the world. The size of budget may have big consequences for caretaking of individuals with autism. For that reason good news is really good news. In the forthcomming weeks and month I will update my blog more regularly.
This posting consist of an update: what has append the last year?

What has happend the last year? - Good news
Basically the projectplan states that the first year is a preparation for testing the software on the four HANDS schools. The HANDS internal metafor for this projectplan is putting a man on the moon. For that reason the photo of a rocket take off is a actually a good metaphor of the kick off meeting in June 08 in Slettestrand.

Last year in June the partners in the HANDS project met each other for the first time: philosopers, software developers, psychologist, teachers, researchers and practioners. From six different european contries. It could be a big waste of money and a lot of walking on the same spot. It has not been so. The kick off meeting in Slettestrand was wonderful and so has the work of the Consortium been the last year. All our HANDS partners are really engaged and skilled. Eager "To make the HANDS dream come true"(Tobias Berglund, teacher at Svedenskolan, Sweden). We knew from the start that the idea of using Persuasive Technology as a leading star in the design work was interesting, but facts
  • All partners have been working like ants.
  • When the HANDS projectplan missed important activities the partners have found solutions themselves.
  • Partners have a good understanding of the need for respect and trust in a highly interdisciplinary collaboration like HANDS.

are not only facts but experiences that makes you very happy.
The concrete public results of the work are "deliverables" and they can be downloaded and read on the public HANDS-webpage (click the download menu).

During exciting, challenging and wearing work with the requirements I had a little time left in which I created the poster "One for each". That is a poster that used a lot and the slogan is too. "One for each" is the understandable for psychologist, the teachers, the software developers and the rest of us. Parents and not involved teachers do understand that HANDS strive to conform to one of the post important principles in autism pedagogical activities: adaption of pedagogical efforts to the individual are mandatory.
You may download the complete poster here(7.1mb).

The first half year has consisted from setting up requirements and designing the test-setup.
To me that period was all to exciting: will the single partners work like they have been told? Will the consortium collaborate?
And the answer was yes. The requirement proces was organised as 3 separate process organised by the 3 universities. To get as many new ideas and perspectives on the users needs and wishes.
From the requirements the consortium created an common set of requirements. A number of requirements was unfortunately very simular. Other requirements was different perspectives(cognitive psychology, schoolperspective or persuasive technology). And a number of very small designdetails was identified as well.
All was specified in a format "Use case" that the softwaredevelopers easily could create specifications from.

In the second half year(spring 09) the consortium started focusing on the preparations of the test on the school and the approval of the test setup of the HANDS internal Ethical Board.

We are not done preparing the schools. But we are on the road. We still have 1 and half month left. The most important prerequisite is the teachers that are engaged and I cannot question their engagement any longer. That is a very nice experience.

The Ethical approval of the test setup has taken a long time and a lot of work. I am very thanksful to all the partners who have contributed. And the efforts have not been wasteless. The members(especially the parents) of the Ethical Board have been very engaged and involved in improving the test setup from an Ethical point of view. We had some valuable discussions and improvements to the test setup.

Summing up: the HANDS consortium is progressing very well and still have a fair chance to create really interesting research with the autism area and within the persuasive technology area. And HANDS still have a chance to create really valuable software for the benefit of individuals with autism.

But HANDS has to be stimulated with a lot of luck.



Friday, July 04, 2008

Kick off meeting of HANDS - so interesting, so joyfull

While we were planning the kick off we were excited. We were working a lot, mailing, planning and talking. This meeting could be the end of HANDS if we failed. But the meeting did not fail. In opposite. The meeting was exciting, informative and highly valuable. And not to forget: fun.

Afterwards I asked a couple of meeting participants to mail me their experience.

Director of IT-Vest and ICT-ethics expert, Thomas Ploug, Aalborg University/Copenhagen mailed me(30-06-2008 21:34)

"Thanks very much for the kick-off seminar in Aalborg.

I always find it most inspiring and stimulating to be among people with different fields of expertise. It is, however, also challenging when succesful, inter-disciplinary understanding and collaboration is required. Arriving in Aalborg I was thus filled with equal excitement and worries. I am happy to say now – upon the completion of the seminar – that my worries turned out to be unfounded. The seminar showed, I think, great courtesy, enthusiasm and true dedication among the participants – which I find most promising for the time to come.

Being involved with the Ethics Board I benefitted quite a lot from the many presentations that directly or indirectly added to my understanding of the psychology, thinking, habits etc. of people with autism. It is exactly those particular traits of autists that deepens and accentuates the ethical questions and problems already evident.

With great expectations and high hopes for the remaining time of the HANDS-project."

Thomas Ploug

Ildiko Kanizsai-Nagy, psychologist from Autism Foundation/Hungary mailed me(03-07-2008 22:53):

I was asked by Morten to give a personal „blog-account” on our excellent kick-off meeting in June. Here are some comments.

Before travelling to Slettestrand our hope - at the Autism Foundation and ELTE University - was that we would have the possibily to clarify our questions on the HANDS project. These were for example the division of tasks between partners, especially with London Southbank University or the software solutions. We also wanted to know if the partners have the same or at least similar educational, scentific and methdolocigal base and background regarding to autism spectrum disorders. We also had some queries on our own presentation: would it be approriate, useful and intelligible for our partners in HANDS project.

Lots of our doubts disappeared when we heard the presentation of collegues from Svedenskolan. Not only the methods and tools they use in education of their students, but the attitude and enthusiasm they represented was very prepossesing. At that time me, and I am sure also my collegues felt that we definetly would be able to find the common language.

The Testschools meeting gave us a great opportunity to discuss the scientific needs and aspects of our research. We hope we could clarify the main points of testing and evaluation and now we are working on refining the selecting criteria. We were also happy to hear positive feed-backs about our presentation.

Personally for me the software side of the project was a “gray area”. I did benefit a lot from the presentation of collegues from Wirtek Rumenia, now I know a bit more how we should think on the software design of HANDS.

Above this I was really impressed during the whole meeting how keenly and actively people discusses all the issues.

It was also important for me to develop personal reletionships with collegues we work together. Thanks to Morten excellent idea of mixing different people from differents partners during the dinner in the beautiful restaurant at the seaside, we had unique chance to get to know each other better. No doubt that the high spot of the performance was the chorus singing "The Abstract Song"...

And - although I know it is not a scientific aspect – we really-really enyojed the marvellous nature of Demnark, the sea, the wind, and also the food.

All together I can say – I guess in the name of my collegues in Budapest – that we all had a great and useful time in Slettestrand. And although we still have lots of things to discuss and work on I am sure now we have the common track to go along.

Ildiko Kanizsai-Nagy"

Softwarearchitect, Ghita Pop(he is male) from Wirtek Romania mailed me(25-06-2008 08:31):
"It’s my pleasure to say that from my point of view was a great experience since I have been participated for the first time to such kick off meeting.

I learned a lot off thinks about how the meetings are organized and also about talking with other people from other country that share the same ideas and have so much enthusiasm to work together for a commune goal.

Regarding the benefit, I think the visit to Egebakken School, was very important for us because we saw a lot of methods used by teachers in their working days, that can be developed in the Hands Tool. I was moved since I didn’t knew very much about autism disabilities and I’m very glad and enthusiast to be in the team that will accomplish the dream of creating a Tool that help a lot teachers in their dedicated work.

Alex shares the same thoughts about the experience and benefit.

I look forward to start our part in this long process."

Ghita Pop

I share Thomas, Ildiko and Ghitas experience: it was the best outcome of the meeting we could dream of. Good atmosphere, very nice people and stimulating talks.

Thanks to everyone. Thanks.



Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Advice on hardwareplatform

I got an interesting mail from Pernille Missel Danielsen, handicap consultant at "Videnscenter for Specialpædagogik" (Knowledge Center for chidren with special needs), the other day. She asked me:

I am a handicap consultant who have been asked to buy PDA to 3 teenagers with ASD. I have been traversing the market and found many very interesting product but I have gotten confused. Which PDA would you recommend?

My answer to Pernille Missel Danielsen was:
"It is a very good question, which we in HANDS do spend some time on. I am happy you ask me, but please do not wait for HANDS. We will enter the market in 2011!

Within the HANDS project have we not decied the hardwareplatform yet. We are eager to give the users influence and hear what they need. We experience there is a number of possibilities.

A pda(a mobile device without phone)
A windows mobile SmartPhone. Either small screen and small device or big(big screen and big device).
NOKIA SmartPhone
Alternative SmartPhones(
nokia, Sony Erichsson, Samsung...)
General mobilephone(nokia, Sony Erichsson, Samsung...)

According to the big mobiletelecom exhibition in Barcelona(march 08) the productsegment "Smart Phone" are the fastest growing segment within the mobilephonesproductsegments. The consequense is, that we will see lots of productintroductions in
"SmartPhone" productsegment in the nearest future. Iphone has been introduced, Google is about introducing Androids, and more is to come.

When choosing a pda for young people be aware that
You are choosing mob
iles for young people, who would be happy, if mobile phone and pda is the same.
You need a large screen, but the gadget has to be as small as possible. I myself has a large SmartPhone(HP Ipaq hw6515 , dim: 15x8cm) which hardly fit in my pockets and because of that I tend to forget the pda everywhere.

Producers of mobilephones estimates the product lifelength to be 2 years. It will probably be true in your case. Possibly less. Your pda will be pedagogical tools and such equipment do have a risci life. The larger the pda is, the higher is the chance for shorter life because of weight and size.

The software we have spotted for individuals with ASD are all running on windows mobile on a pda. But our marketresearch has been orientated towards the best products and we do definitely not know all products.

I do expect, that HANDS will choose the Windows MobilePlatform with an Smartphone. But again do not use this knowledge as a foundation for your decision. It takes three years, before our software is on the market.

Sincerly yours,


There is updated info: the kickoff meeting of HANDS held in SletteStrand 15th to 18th of June made a decision about the hardwareplatform: The meeting decided to use Windows Mobile SmartPhone platform. The next question is, which models is accepted as HANDS mobilephones. The teachers wanted a relatively large screen, but what that means precisely is not known.

Morten Aagaard

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Persuasive 08 - an inspiring and engaging conference

Participation in Persuasive 08 conference was great! 140 interesting and entusiastic researcher or practioners from 20 contries within the Persuasive Technology field was discussing, listening, laughing and overwhelming each other with good new research or good ideas.

HANDS was present too. With poster and presentation.
In the posting I have mentioned the most interesting talks, activities, articles and people.
It should give you an oppurtunity to study the programs or ideas in details. The talks, activities, articles or people I found most interesting was:

Affective computing - Kerstin Höök, Stockholm University
Kerstin was the first keynote reader. For good reasons. She was talking about affective computing which is an area that considers how emotions can be an issue when using computers.
Highly relevant for the HANDES project. Kerstin showed three applications in her talk:
1. The use of puppets in games which makes it possible to show emotions with motions.
2. Emoto. SMS messages with visuals that is makes it possible to show emotions in SMS.
3. Emotions through motions. Kerstin and her crew had developed a gadget which you could shake/move and through those movements who could express emotions in SMS.

Who this concerns?
Cognitive psychologists, SW developers, teachers. I believe, that especially Emoto could be interesting to create.


Her slides(A video is missing). Her article.

Digital Therapy - Elin Olsen, Changetech. com
Elin Olsen told about their digital therapy. Based on positive psychology a Oslo based compagny, Changetech has developed therapy on the computer that actually works. It targets depression, stop smoking, loosing weight and a couple of other behaviours/issues. It works alone(without a human therapist). Advantages of digital therapy to human therapy is 24-7 availability, personal, ready when problems occur.

Who this concerns?
Cognitive psychologists, teachers.

Her slides. Their articles(WillPower, Digital Therapy)

Rosalin Pickard autism, affective computing - Winslow Burleson, Arizona State University
Winslow Burlesons wife, Camilla, introduced me the first day of the conference to Winslow. He has an fabulous cv including studying at Stanford and MIT and employed now at Arizona State University where he do research for LEGO. When he was studying at MIT he worked together with Rosalin Pickard who have developed affective computing gadgets for individuals with ASD. He invited himself to come to AAU and give a talk about her work and their collaboration. We have made an appointment August 1th. It will be an HANDS workshop on Affective Computing with more speakers.

You(HANDS partner) is welcome.

Who this concerns?
Teachers, psychologists, people i Aalborg.

Rosalind Pickard on wikipedia, Contact me for info about the arrangement(the date might be changed)

General purpose persuasive software components - Samir Chatterjee, Claremont graduate University
Samir Chatterjee argued several times on the conference, that there must exist general purpose persuasive software components. I agreed with him, but had not
the time to talk about it in details.
Samir Chatterjees own work included an diary. So did the digital therapy talk. In HANDS we talk about HIPD. There are other candidates for modellayer components with an persuasive properties.

Who this concerns?
SW developers.

His slides, his article.

Project management, BJ Fogg, Stanford University

BJ is a very kind man and a generous man. And intelligent. BJ showed significant interest in HANDS. He participated in our HANDS workshop. Afterwards he warned us(Peter Ø. and I) that we had to manage the the softwaredevelopers very well. They do not necessary go into research for all the good intentions. To them it is business. The suggested, that we had to have a external management of the swdevelopment.

Who this concerns?
Management of HANDS.


HANDS poster - "It might be Kairos"
I had made a poster and a presentation about how to model Kairos mathematically. But nobody seems to understand me and nobody pays attention to it. I believe, that Peter Øhrstrøm, Lars Moltsen and my article is a very valuable contribution to the work within Persuasive Technology. For the Conference we wrote an 11 page article, "It might be Kairos". It combines Persuasive Technology, bayesian statistics(bayes net), psychology, rhetorics and software modelling. Difficult. We was ask to reduce to size to 4 pages. Even more difficult.

Who this concerns?

None I believe. The way to "sell" the idea is to use it in an experiment. Two of the businesscases of HANDS(impulscontrol) and Therapeutical Weatherforecast is candidates.

The article. There exist an 11 pages long verision which is easier understandable.

HANDS workshop - Morten Aagaard, Peter Øhrstrøm and Louise Glud Nørregaard AAU
Actually it was Peter Øhrstrøm, Louise and I who made an presentation. Before our presentation there was a significant interest in HANDS at the conference. The comments to the presentation was primarily orientated towards the ethical concerns. (momentarily do I not remember the questions/comments).
One comment I remembered was a comment about naming the HANDS toolset. Robert Brigg said correctly, that the name of the software constitutes the users conception of the software. We(designers and teachers) call it HANDS, but what are the users naming their customisable software? And should the name be given by teacher(I believe yes)?

Who this concerns?


My slides.

Another interestering resume of the conference has Kristian Toennesen posted in his blog,

I brought a bike with me and I slept in a cabin in the woods 100 meters away from the Baltic Sea. I went swimming every morning. It was very
nice. The Ouluans are very nice people.