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Summer 2022

Project Background

Integrating smart home technology into hospital patient rooms should make hospitals more efficient, improve patient recovery and rehabilitation, and enhance the experience of being in the space for patients, their visitors, and employees. Yet, research on smart homes cannot achieve this vision: it does not investigate how the technology can support patient recovery, nor does it address the complexity of multiple stakeholders in a space that is both a workplace and a living space. Smart hospitals are beginning to be built, and Human-Computer Interaction research does not offer guidance for how their design can support (1) patient autonomy and recovery, or (2) the complex, interacting workflows of hospital employees from physicians to custodial staff. Hospital administrators and designers need guidance on what value this technology can provide in their hospital. The proposed work leverages the disjoint HCI literature on hospitals and smart homes to chart a research agenda for making smart hospitals useful. This timely work will fill the gap in the literature, providing guidance for developing the next generation of smart hospitals.

We are conducting observations, interviews, and log data analysis in a user-centered process to study how the diverse set of stakeholders at the newly-opened, fully-functioning 75-bed Craig H. Nielsen Rehabilitation hospital interact with the technology that is deployed in the smart hospital rooms. The lights, blinds, TV, speakers, thermostat, and door in these rooms can all be controlled through an iPad screen or by voice commands, similar to smart home technology. Many patients in this context have physical impairments that amplify the value of these technologies.

Student Role

The student working on this project will work alongside the current research team to collect and analyze data, synthesize that data into design ideas, and implement prototypes of design ideas to be deployed for further exploration. Our iterative user-centered research process depends heavily on qualitative data collection and analysis. The student will work in tandem with a trained doctoral student to conduct observations and semi-structured interviews with hospital patients, caregivers, and hospital staff. These data will be combined with log data to build a rich understanding of current usage of this technology in the hospital setting, following the qualitative analysis approach of thematic analysis. Depending on the interests and expertise of the particular student, they may focus more on the qualitative side (interviews and observations), or on the quantitative side. The quantitative aspects of this effort will include processing log data, exploring patterns or other notable findings in that data, and aligning it with observed events or interactions from the qualitative effort.

Based on the results of this analysis, the student will participate in design exercises with the research and clinical teams to explore opportunities to better leverage this technology in the context of the rehabilitation hospital. Through this process we will work to identify candidate ideas that will be explored in prototypes of increasing fidelity, and we will evaluate those ideas with multiple stakeholders, including patients, caregivers, clinicians, and hospital staff.

The student will also participate in the preparation of a top-tier research publication that communicates the results of these research efforts.

Student Learning Outcomes and Benefits

This project will provide the student with a multidisciplinary research experience in human-centered computing. The student will have the opportunity to develop their skills in:

  • qualitative and/or quantitative data collection (including semi-structured interview techniques)
  • mixed-methods data analysis (thematic analysis of interview and observation data, quantitative analysis of log data, and combined evaluation of both sources of data)
  • design ideation and engaging stakeholders in discussion of design ideas

Together, this provides the student with a valuable first-hand experience in a user-centered research process where the goal of the project has both real-world application and the potential to produce important research knowledge.

By the end of this research experience, the student will be able to:

  • Initiate and conduct an iterative design process that emphasizes real-world applicability
  • Connect existing theory in ubiquitous computing/smart home research and rehabilitation hospitals with software user experience designs
  • Identify and design for different user personas based on research findings
  • Translate design ideas into varying levels of prototype fidelity
  • Conduct observation and semi-structured interviews with participants
  • Apply thematic analysis approach to qualitative data from the semi-structured interviews
  • Communicate research findings and results in the format of an academic research paper


Jason Wiese

Assistant Professor
School of Computing

My research focuses on personal data. I design and build systems to address the challenges of dealing with unified personal data. To inform the design of my systems and to demonstrate their utility, I develop approaches for interpreting personal data, I create applications that leverage personal data, and I conduct user studies to understand the perspectives of users and application developers.

At the beginning of the project, I will work closely with the student to ensure they have a solid footing with respect to the project. I will introduce them to the basics of conducting semi-structured interviews, and practice these activities with them. As the summer progresses, I plan to support the student in gradually developing independence with respect to the research project.

Early in the project, I expect that we will meet at least twice per week to discuss the project, addressing barriers and deciding on next steps. I also expect that they will work closely with my doctoral student on the project, and that they will be meeting daily.

By completing this project, the student will gain valuable firsthand experience in human-centered computing research in a real-world setting that combines research and application. I will work to complement this experience by exposing the student to other research in human-centered computing (both in my lab and across the field). I will also work with the student to understand their professional goals, and then to help them develop a plan for accomplishing those goals. I will also make myself available to the student for broader questions about the field and their career plans, and provide them with support, perspective, and guidance to move them closer to their long-term goals.