Begun in 1998, the Aware Home Research Initiative (AHRI) at Georgia Institute of Technology is an interdisciplinary research endeavor involving faculty and student researchers from multiple domains across campus. AHRI researchers are interested in three main research areas: Health and Well-being, Digital Media and Entertainment, and Sustainability, investigating how new technologies can impact the lives of people at home.
Central to this research are the Institute for People and Technology (IPaT) Living Labs of:
- The Aware Home, a 3-story, 5040 square foot facility designed to facilitate research, while providing an authentic home environment.
- The Wesley Woods Towers Senior Living apartment (Suite 609) at Emory University: designed to extend the reach of the Aware Home into a senior living environment
- HomeLab: a GTRI managed resource including: 1. a population of individuals 50 and older willing to participate in research studies and evaluate products in their homes over time; and 2. study personnel.
- The Child Study Lab: located in the Health Systems Institute space, this facility provides a controlled and monitored environment for studies involving child behavior, such as Autism.
The Aware Home and Other Related Living Labs
The Aware Home
As the first residential laboratory of its type, the Aware Home has received great media attention and provided a valuable venue demonstrating the multidisciplinary nature of Georgia Tech research. Since 2000, Aware Home Research Initiative researchers have leveraged the facility to investigate many areas of research including: data delivery to the home, innovative sensing and control infrastructure, and a variety of applications to support home residents. One of the strongest areas in this research is on health and wellness in the home with significant efforts focused on technology to support aging-in-place and the caregivers of children with developmental disabilities, such as autism. This research has influenced both the broader research community and industry in considering the importance of the home in our future.
Funded by a grant from the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) awarded in 1998, The Aware Home is a three-story, 5040-square-foot home designed to be flexible, yet provide an authentic home environment. The Aware Home functions as a living laboratory for interdisciplinary design, development and evaluation.
The Aware Home was designed with two identical floors, each featuring: a kitchen, dining room, living room, 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, and a laundry room. But it was also designed with many features not found in a typical home in order to support the expected research to be conducted. These features include:
- a basement with a conference room and workshop
- an attic with walk-in access
- accessible features, like grab bars and wider hallways and doors, and lever door handles
- conduits from basement to attic, with breakouts for each main floor
- drop ceilings with outlets, cable trays, and conduits concealed in the space above
- conduits running from ceiling to floor, allowing concealment of custom runs of cables
- indirect and diffuse lighting to avoid specular reflection to optimize computer vision results
The home was originally intended to allow for a full-time resident(s) / research participants on one floor and prototyping of new technologies, sensing, and other research on the other floor. For a number of reasons (including legal), this intended use by long-term residents has not yet been realized; however, the facility is very useful for studies involving live-in participants for a short-term (e.g. 1-10 days).
Research / Living Lab Facility
The Aware Home serves the needs of the researchers and students in many ways, including:
- for research projects where elements of the home are not easily recreated in the lab, for example: research leveraging powerlines, waterlines, kitchen, or the floorplan.
- as a home environment for testing out installation of research projects in a home setting prior to deploying to research participant homes
- as a controlled home environment for studies, where technology is not yet ready for installation in participants homes and a home environment would make the difference. These may be studies of a couple hours to 10 days, depending on the goals of the research
- to educate students and provide an interesting environment for their class project ideas
- as a single location to share our multi-disciplinary research with others
- as an informal location for gathering with a group.
Wesley Woods Towers Suite
Thanks to the generous assistance from the Wesley Woods Center at Emory University, the Aware Home Research Initiative has access to a small suite in the Wesley Woods Senior Living Towers for conducting studies involving older adults. This facility serves as a beta location for evaluation of technology in a controlled environment within an independent / assistive living population. In this way we can bring the research to a group of older adults who may not otherwise make a trip to a study location.
AHRI researchers have often used participant’s homes in research to evaluate the pros and cons of our projects. Finding willing participants is always challenging and time-consuming. The AHRI is working with the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) to build HomeLab, a 550 home testbed of individuals age 50 and older willing to evaluate aging products in their homes over timeframes ranging from 1 month to 6 or more months.The goal is to provide a valuable resource for Georgia Tech researchers investigating longitduinal understanding of aging, interventions and supports for aging-in-place, and to offer services for the evaluation of industry products’ with focus on usability, usefulness, acceptance, adoption, and effectiveness.