Task Prompting: Helping People to Complete Tasks

Posted in: EngD, Research Project, Technology

As promised earlier this week, I would like to quickly share what I have learned about task prompting so far. This post is more of an introduction to task prompting than a comprehensive explanation of it, but I hope it will shed some light on what my future research will involve.

The following sections describe what task prompting aims to achieve, two groups who might benefit from task prompting, and examples of prompting technology that has been developed.

Task Prompting: Breaking Down Tasks

Before introducing the areas where task prompting has been used, I will quickly explain my understanding of why and how task prompting is carried out.

Most tasks can be broken down into individual sub-tasks. For example, when making a cup of tea the key sub-tasks might be:

  • Fill the kettle with water;
  • Boil the kettle;
  • Get a mug from the cupboard;
  • Put a teabag in the mug;
  • Pour hot water into the mug;
  • Stir the tea and let it brew;
  • Take the teabag out of the mug;
  • Add milk.

Task prompting aims to guide someone through a task from start to finish, ensuring each step is completed at the correct time and in the correct order. Sometimes, the order is not always important. In the above example, it doesn't really matter if the water goes in before the teabag. However, the kettle does need to be boiled before the water is poured into the mug.

I have not yet found (although it undoubtedly exists) formal literature detailing this, but I wanted to give you a feel for my understanding of 'task prompting' so that the rest of this post makes sense.

Areas Where Task Prompting is Used

When reading this week, I have noticed two main groups for which task prompting can be useful, though there may be others that I have not yet come across. The two groups are:

  1. Prompting of everyday tasks, such as preparing meals or washing hands, for people with memory difficulties, for example, people with acquired brain injury (ABI) or degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's Disease; and
  2. Prompting for people without cognitive difficulties who are non-experts completing complex maintenance and assembly tasks.

For people with memory impairments (1.), the difficulty lies in being able to remember what needs to be completed and in some cases remembering what is being done. In the tea example, they may have put the teabag in the mug but forgotten to boil the kettle. In this case, a prompting device might tell them to boil the kettle.

For people without memory impairments (2.), the goal is to help them achieve a task without having prior knowledge of how to do that. One example is IKEA furniture instructions - though these aren't always as obvious as one might hope!

Technology for Task Prompting

Many different approaches have been taken to task prompting, including simple solutions such as Post-it Notes for everyday tasks, to complex technology solutions that learn the abilities of its users. For people with memory difficulties, research has shown that digital technology can be effective at improving the independence of the people who use them.

In an industrial setting, augmented reality (AR) has been used for training. A recent example of augmented reality that I have found is Scope AR's WorkLink. Their tool looks very sophisticated, with text and 3D animations on top of objects explaining what to do. This is the sort of thing I might like to develop for people with dementia, but determining the best way of communicating what must be done is one big challenge that lies ahead.

Despite this, finding Scope AR's work was really exciting for me, since my research project is focusing on whether or not AR could be used for task prompting for people living with dementia. Given the success of other assistive technologies for people with cognitive difficulties, I am looking forward to finding out whether or not AR can also be useful to help prompt people with their daily living activities.




Posted in: EngD, Research Project, Technology

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