ChefMyself: Improving the project with users’ expertise

ChefMyself is well underway and the consortium keeps turning to experts for feedback, tips and evaluation of what our teams are building together. The experts are older adults who have been involved in the project ever since it began. Relying on these adults’ expertise and opinion, a series of tests were developed, in Italy, Portugal and in the Netherlands, in order to gather their feedback as a way to improve the interfaces and usage characteristics of ChefMyself. These assessments have been carried out since last January.

The human-centred process started off with surveys and focus groups in Italy and the Netherlands (October and November 2013) to gather different stakeholders’ insights and draw requirements for our system. Here in Portugal, and with the help of our network COLABORAR, we have conducted in-depth interviews and observations for one week within older adults’ homes to understand their routines and strategies regarding healthy eating and food management.

At Fraunhofer Portugal, three researchers went to visit 11 older adults and carried out semi-structured interviews in the hosts’ kitchens. With these interviews we wanted to understand the process behind meal planning and preparation, understand how older adults organize their recipes, observe the kitchen and meal eating environment, and discuss the relationship of older adults with kitchen appliances. Using video and photo cameras, we were able to document the environment and/or artefacts. The insights that came out of this qualitative research were then used to create metaphors in the user interfaces. Amongst other results, there are two we would like to highlight:

Shopping routines: Usually because they cannot bear heavy weights, many older adults go out shopping every day. Carrying a shopping list is a usual thing, mostly because they tend to forget what it is they should be buying. One great concern is with saving: coupons, leftovers, home cooking… all might come in handy to save a bit of money that might be needed for something else.

Meals planning: Leftovers play an important part and the interviewees would often cook in advance to save trouble and money. Recipes are not followed very much in daily life, the exception being desserts. We found all sorts of recipe archiving and recipes for desserts are the ones that are still followed to the dot. Documenting these archives was crucial to help us design the interfaces for the recipes.

All and all, this was a great activity, providing the research team insights and wonderful visual materials to work with, so that a truly helpful, fun and engaging experience can be created with ChefMyself. Afterwards, the design of the user interfaces and test of some preliminary prototypes – again with the help of COLABORAR has begun. Fraunhofer’s team kept working on the system and on the user interfaces in particular.

Recently, the tablet and TV user interfaces have been tested with users in Portugal, the Netherlands (at Unie KBO) and Italy (at INRCA) following the same test protocol. The protocol was designed to assess usability and user experience. Ten users in each country performed different tasks on the tablet and on the TV, assessed accessibility and shared their opinions about the aesthetics of the screens, the ease of interaction, the services provided (e.g. social network) and offer suggestions for improvement.

Users were able to perform most of the tasks with no significant impediments. Successful task completion, i.e. with no help or hints from the test facilitators, was around 80% for the TV and above 80% for the tablet device. These are very high completion rates, considering that these were not functional prototypes and that, for most users, this was their first introduction to the ChefMyself system. The protocol included qualitative methods. The results from the qualitative research suggest that the users are curious about the solution and, in particular, about the social network we are designing to tackle isolation and motivate people to dedicate time to healthy eating.

ChefMyself is a project within the Ambient Assisted Living Joint Programme (AAL JP) which brings together 8 partners from 5 countries. It aims to develop a customized, open and extensible ecosystem built around an automatic cooking solution to support elderly people in preparing meals and maintaining healthy eating habits.

The project kicked-off in June 2013 and involves 6 partners beyond Fraunhofer AICOS: Fundació Cetemmsa and Polne (Taurus Group) from Spain, ME.TE.DA and Istituto Nazionale di Ricovero e Cura per Anziani from Italy, Unie KBO from the Netherlands and ASM from Poland.