The Assistive Sociotechnical Solutions for Individuals with Special needs using Technology Lab (ASSIST) is led by Professor Sri Kurniawan. The long term research agenda of ASSIST Lab is to help people with special needs (PSN) maintain a high quality of life through technology. PSN include people with disabilities, older persons, young children, people in the developing countries and people with low socioeconomic status and education; in general those who require special accommodation when learning and using technology. This agenda is challenging because: 

  1. Among PSN there is a large variation of needs, abilities, behaviors, attitudes and contexts of use. Their needs and abilities may also change over time at different rate (e.g., cognitive decline in older adults). These can be difficult to model and translate into systems.
  2. Some of the current systems aimed to help PSN do not address their needs, mostly because of inappropriate underpinning theories/models and assumptions, which consequently cause false alarms and impose burden to these people or their caregivers, causing abandonment and health risks.
  3. Too many systems out there are based on empirical trial-and-error methods or “old knowledge" that does not translate well to engineering system design.

Considering these challenges, the research within ASSIST Lab focuses on these areas:

  1. Using established models from a variety of fields (e.g., Psychology, Sociology, health) to predict the various aspects of lives of PSN that the technology is supposed to aid and developing prototypes to validate those models.
  2. Thinking of creative ways that the increasingly lower cost, reliable and ubiquitous sensors inside consumer appliances (e.g., cell phones, iPads) can be used to gain insights into user behaviors, especially as it relates to health, rehabilitation and quality of life.

Our approach to research has always been building and evaluating real, working systems. To make certain we stay relevant, we build real prototypes that address problems encountered by users, and use theories that have been validated with user data to drive our designs whenever possible.

We believe in looking beyond our own area of research to identify compelling research topics and potential solutions. We also believe that cross-discipline and cross-cultural collaborations expose us to new perspectives. These new perspectives allow knowledge previously isolated to our field to be leveraged to produce high-quality research. ASSIST lab had collaborated with fellow computer scientists, psychologists, nursing midwife, speech pathologist, plastic surgeons, software developers, and industrial engineers among others. Our collaborators come from North America, Asia (Malaysia and Japan), Europe (Czech Republic, Italy, UK), Mexico and Australia. We intend to continue this multidisciplinary and multicultural research work for the foreseeable future.

The physical location of the lab is in Engineering 2 building room 309 at the UCSC Campus.


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