Open Access Article

Title: Metaphors and analogies through smart materials to mitigate age-related differences in the understanding of technology

Authors: Massimo Micocci; Gabriella Spinelli

Addresses: Department of Design, College of Engineering, Design and Physical Sciences, Brunel University London, Kingston Ln, Uxbridge UB8 3PH, London, UK; Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College London, St Mary's Campus, QEQM building, Praed Street, London W2 1PE, UK ' Department of Design, College of Engineering, Design and Physical Sciences, Brunel University London, Kingston Ln, Uxbridge UB8 3PH, London, UK

Abstract: Older adults, owing to their changing physical and cognitive abilities, might still be challenged by understanding and adopting smart technologies. In line with such research enquiry, 'metaphors' and 'analogies', powerful learning tools for written and verbal communication, have been investigated as 'non-linguistic' tools, when embedded into product shapes and features, to facilitate the users' understanding of products' functionalities. In this study, analogies and metaphors are physically 'embodied' into products' design through the adoption of smart materials (SMs). A novel device was designed to explore such approach using four different SMs families to evaluate which design would be more intuitive for two groups of users in a comparative, exploratory study. Findings reveal that embodied SMs help considerably in the mitigation of age-related differences and in the understanding of technologies due to facilitated retrieving of older adults' prior knowledge. This, in return, may increase the chance of technology adoption among ageing users.

Keywords: human-centred design; product design; analogical reasoning; technology; metaphors; smart materials.

DOI: 10.1504/JDR.2018.099536

Journal of Design Research, 2018 Vol.16 No.3/4, pp.282 - 313

Available online: 08 May 2019 *