Background: Socially assistive robotics for elderly care is a growing field. However, although robotics has the potential to support elderly in daily tasks by offering specific services, the development of usable interfaces is still a challenge. Since several factors such as age or disease-related changes in perceptual or cognitive abilities and familiarity with computer technologies influence technology use they must be considered when designing interfaces for these users.
Objective: This paper presents findings from usability testing of two different services provided by a social assistive robot intended for elderly with cognitive impairment: a grocery shopping list and an agenda application. The main goal of this study is to identify the usability problems of the robot interface for target end-users as well as to isolate the human factors that affect the use of the technology by elderly.
Methods: Socio-demographic characteristics and computer experience were examined as factors that could have an influence on task performance. A group of 11 elderly persons with Mild Cognitive Impairment and a group of 11 cognitively healthy elderly individuals took part in this study. Performance measures (task completion time and number of errors) were collected.
Results: Cognitive profile, age and computer experience were found to impact task performance. Participants with cognitive impairment achieved the tasks committing more errors than cognitively healthy elderly. Instead younger participants and those with previous computer experience were faster at completing the tasks confirming previous findings in the literature.
Conclusions: The overall results suggested that interfaces and contents of the services assessed were usable by older adults with cognitive impairment. However, some usability problems were identified and should be addressed to better meet the needs and capacities of target end-users.