Simon Fraser University, SIAT, PhD Studies, Spring 2012 – Fall 2013
The visually impaired have been a longstanding well recognized user group addressed in the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). Recently, the study of sighted dog owners and their pets has gained interest in HCI. Despite this, there is a noticeable gap in the field of HCI with regards to research on and for visually impaired owners and their dogs (guide dog teams).
This research specifically focuses on guide dog teams, presenting an ethnographic study that explores the interactions of guide dog teams revealing differences between their work and off-work relationship. Some of our findings promote design interventions that address issues of awareness, pride, confidence, and trust present in guide dog teams at work but absent in off-work scenarios. We uncover potential for the design of new computer-mediated technologies that can better support the needs of guide dog owners; specifically, enhanced play-interaction through accessible dog toys utilizing smart sensor technologies and mobile apps.
The study has been an incredible experience and taught me a lot about Guide Dogs and their handlers and ethnographic fieldwork. BC Guide Dogs has been a very helpful partner in this work.
We published several works on this project:
Hauser, S., Wakkary, R., & Neustaedter, C., (2014). Understanding guide dog team interactions: design opportunities to support work and play. In Proc. of the 2014 conference on Designing interactive systems (DIS 14). ACM, NY, USA, pp. 295-304. (10pgs)
Our current stage is that there is no more funding for this project, however we have been in contact with Ruffwear and encouraged them to re-design guide dog harnesses and written initial design briefs for their design processes. The company has picked up on the need for new guide dog harnesses and is putting efforts towards this endeavour. More information about that will be coming soon.