OPALI Inria Associate Team

OPen Assistive-technology platform for independent LIving


Phoenix Research Group

  • Charles Consel (Professor)
  • Hélène Sauzéon (Associate Professor)
  • Bernard N'Kaoua (Professor)
  • Emilie Balland (Researcher, coordinator)
  • Lucile Dupuy (PhD student)
  • Adrien Carteron (Engineer)
  • Alexandre Spriet (Engineer)

TSA Chair, UQTR (Université du Québec Trois-Rivières)

  • Yves Lachapelle (Professor)
  • Dany Lussier-Desrocher (Professor, coordinator)
  • Jeannie Roux (Research assistant)
  • Fano Andriamiharisoa (Engineer)

Other Participants

  • Équipe ”Handicap et Système Nerveux” (EA 4136, Université Bordeaux Segalen)
  • Association Trisomie 21 (Down Syndrome)

Objectives (2013-2015)

Our goal is to provide people with intellectual disabilities with an open platform for home digital assistance. The objectives for the three years are the following :

  1. Identifying the assistance needs for people with Down syndrome. This analysis will be based on interviews of both the users, the families and the caregivers. The Phoenix research group already collaborates with the Association Trisomie 21. Such analysis is critical as the assistance has to conform to the user’s life project.
  2. Designing an open-ended catalog of assistive applications. Like an application store for smart- phones, this catalog will be a key vehicle to disseminate innovative assistive applications. The open-ended nature of our approach will promote a wide spectrum of applications, tailored to specific user needs and capable of coping with the evolution of these needs.
  3. Assessing the assistive-technology platform with user evaluations. The TSA chair has recently designed and built a smart apartment to conduct experimental evaluation of assistive technologies in realistic conditions. Leveraging this experimental infrastructure, we will evaluate the assistive applications regarding accessibility, usability and benefits in term of user autonomy. Moreover, this experimental work will pave the way to elaborate a project for an experimental infrastructure in Bordeaux.

Scientific Results

Identification of the Assistance Needs

This analysis has gathered data from the different stakeholders (users with Down syndrome, families, caregivers) through interviews and objective measures. The interviews of the stakeholders include an evaluation of the acceptability of the DiaSuiteBox technology based on usage scenarios. The objective measures are divided into two sets: (1) 8 measures for the evaluation of the daily activities (e.g., cognitive complaint, Instrumental Activities of Daily Living scale), and (2) a neurocognitive assessment based on 10 measures (e.g., ELOLA test for verbal capabilities, ZOO test for planning capabilities, object memory in a virtual environment).

In France, this analysis has involved 12 young adults with Down syndrome who have been contacted through the Association Trisomie 21. This work has been coordinated by Bernard N'Kaoua and Hélène Sauzéon. Two Master students in Cognitive Sciences have worked respectively on spatial cognition and memory of objects and a Master student in Neuropsychology has worked on digital assistance needs. The first results were presented in their Master's theses.

Jeannie Roux has conducted a similar evaluation in Canada with 5 young adults with mild intellectual disabilities (ID).

This study will be pursued in 2014 to have a sufficient number of participants in France and Canada. A post-doctoral (Céline Delerue) is responsible for coordinating the finalization of this study and writing the corresponding scientific papers.

Development and Experimental Evaluation of Assistive Applications

In parallel to the analysis of cognitive difficulties and need assistance, the Phoenix team has designed a first application in the domain of home security. The purpose of this pre-experiment was to gather design principles for the future applications of the catalog.

The specification of this application has been designed by Charles Consel, Dany Lussier-Desrochers , Emilie Balland and Hélène Sauzéon . The application consists of two components (a set of objects to gather for picnic and several home security tasks). From these specifications , Camille Manano (former IJD , Phoenix team) has developed the SecurApp application, in close collaboration with Jeannie Roux . One of the main design principles of the application is to promote self-determination. For example, the application does not rely on a sequential guidance (as in conventional prompting systems) but allows participants to choose their own strategy for achieving the task.

An experimental protocol has then been developed by Dany Lussier-Desrochers and Hélène Sauzéon to evaluate SecurApp. This pre-experiment was conducted with 5 young adults with mild intellectual disability in the experimental apartment TSA Chair. Before testing SecurApp, an evaluation phase of the participants' cognitive abilities and daily functioning was conducted, following the same experimental protocol used in France. These cognitive evaluations allow us to explore the influence of cognitive difficulties on the interactions between the application and the user, in addition to providing comparative data with those obtained in France during the needs analysis. One main result of this pre-experiment is the identification of the different cognitive strategies developed by the participants in achieving the same task (e.g, semantic, spatial, sequential, etc.). Taking into account these strategies during the design stage should improve the usability of future assistive applications.

This study was presented by Emilie Balland during the IASSID Conference on Intellectual Disabilities. A paper on the design principles of this application is in preparation.

Workshop on Digital Assistance (December 3-5, 2013)

The Phoenix team organizes from December 3 to 5 a workshop on Digital Assistance. As part of this workshop, the first results of the OPALI team will be presented. In particular, a day will be devoted to cognitive assistance for home and Yves Lachapelle will present the principles of self-determination that are applied for the design and experimental validation of the catalog of home assistance OPALI applications.

Additional Funding

  • Association Trisomie 21 France: Neuropsychological Evaluations of people with Down syndrome using virtual reality tools (10K€). Coordinators: H. Sauzéon & B. N'Kaoua.
  • FIRAH (International Foundation of Applied Disability Research): Neuropsychological Evaluations of people with Down syndrome using virtual reality tools and definition of user's life project (100K€). Coordinator: J.C. Champeau for Association Trisomie 21 France.

Dany Lussier-Desrochers has submitted a proposal for an FQRC emerging team. The funding is approximately $30,000/year for 2 years.

Exchanges between the two research groups

  • Regular visits of Charles Consel during his sabbatical in 2013 at McGill University (presentation of projects Phoenix team and coordination of the pre-experiment)
  • Charles Consel and Emilie Balland in March 2013 (demonstration of DiaSuiteBox and ergonomic assessment of SecurApp application with a first participant)
  • Charles Consel and Bernard N'Kaoua in June 2013(presentation of the needs analysis conducted at the University of Bordeaux Segalen and the College+ project for digital assistance at school)
  • Dany Lusssier Desorchers and Jeannie Roux in September 2013 (analysis of the results of the pre-experiment and preparation of the article on the design principles of SecurApp)
  • Yves Lachapelle in December (keynote speaker for the workshop on Digital Assistance)


Proceedings of Conferences & Workshops

  • Emilie Balland, Charles Consel, Hélène Sauzéon, Dany Lussier-Desrocher, Yves Lachapelle. Project DiaSuite: Pilot study of an intelligent assistant for people with intellectual disability within residential settings. In IASSID Conference on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, August 2013, Tokyo, Japan.
  • Emilie Balland; Charles Emilie Balland; Charles Consel; Hélène Sauzeon; Bernard N'Kaoua. A case for Human-Driven Development. In ICSE'13: Proceedings of the 35th International Conference on Software Engineering (NIER track), May 2013, San Francisco, United States.
  • Hélène Sauzéon, Marie Déjos,  Emilie Balland, Charles Consel, Bernard N’Kaoua. Réalité Virtuelle, assitance numérique et cognition quotidienne : études auprès de patients en stade précoces de démence de type Alzheimer. In Workshop – Alzheimer, Approche pluri-disciplinaire : de la recherche clinique aux avancées technologiques. January 2013, Toulouse, France.

Journal Papers

  • Dany Lussier-Desrochers, Yves Lachapelle, Charles Consel, and David Lavergne. Utilisation de la domotique afin de promouvoir l’autodétermination et l’accès au milieu résidentiel autonome pour les personnes présentant une déficience intellectuelle. In Revue française de l'ergothérapie, 51 :23–31, 2013.
  • Lussier-Desrochers, D., Lachapelle, Y. et Caouette, M.. Challenges in the Completion of Daily Living Activities in Residential Settings (accepted). In Journal on Developmental Disabilities, 2013.
  • Steven E. Stock, Daniel K. Davies, Michael L. Wehmeyer, and Yves Lachapelle. Emerging new practices in technology to support independent community access for people with intellectual and cognitive disabilities. In Journal of NeuroRehabilitation, 28(4) :261–269, 2011.
  • Jérôme Rodrigues, Hélène Sauzéon, Sabine Langevin, Catriona Raboutet, and Bernard N’Kaoua. Memory Performance Depending On Task Characteristics And Cognitive Aids : A Levels-Of Processing Approach In Young Adults. In European Review of Applied Psychology, 60 :55–64, 2010.

Master thesis

  • Jean Labarbe. Étude de la mémoire d'objets en environnement virtuel chez les personnes porteuses de Trisomie 21. Université Bordeaux Segalen.
  • Maxime Bakleh. Étude la cognition spatiale en environnement virtuel chez les personnes porteuses de Trisomie 21. Université Bordeaux Segalen.
  • Meryl Craene. Évaluation des besoins d'assistances numérique pour l'autonomie domiciliaire chez les personnes porteuses de Trisomie 21. Université Bordeaux Segalen.