Special Issue "The PErvasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments (PETRA)"

A special issue of Technologies (ISSN 2227-7080). This special issue belongs to the section "Assistive Technologies".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2018)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Fillia Makedon

Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Texas at Arlington, TX, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: Human Computer Interaction (HCI); pervasive computing; machine learning; computational multimedia; cognitive computing
Guest Editor
Dr. Vangelis Metsis

Department of Computer Science, Texas State University, 601 University Drive, San Marcos, TX 78666-4684, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: computer vision; machine learning; data mining; assistive technologies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue "the PErvasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments (PETRA)" focuses on computational and engineering approaches to improve the quality of life and enhance human performance in a wide range of settings, in the workplace, at home, in public spaces, urban environments, and others. PETRA brings together very different types of technologies to also address important social and healthcare issues for sensitive populations, such as the elderly, persons suffering from chronic conditions, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Cerebral Palsy, and other disabilities or traumas.

The Special Issue will mainly gather contributions from PETRA 2018 conference (http://petrae.org/), which will be held in Corfu, Greece, at the Corfu Holiday Palace Hotel from 26-29 June 2018. However, we also welcome regular papers in the areas of Human and Computer Interactions, healthcare and assisted living.

The relevant Special Issue can be found here:

https://www.mdpi.com/journal/technologies/special_issues/10th_PETRA

Prof. Dr. Fillia Makedon
Dr. Vangelis Metsis
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Technologies is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 350 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Published Papers (13 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Emotion Recognition from Speech Using the Bag-of-Visual Words on Audio Segment Spectrograms
Technologies 2019, 7(1), 20; https://doi.org/10.3390/technologies7010020
Received: 30 November 2018 / Revised: 21 January 2019 / Accepted: 30 January 2019 / Published: 4 February 2019
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Abstract
It is noteworthy nowadays that monitoring and understanding a human’s emotional state plays a key role in the current and forthcoming computational technologies. On the other hand, this monitoring and analysis should be as unobtrusive as possible, since in our era the digital [...] Read more.
It is noteworthy nowadays that monitoring and understanding a human’s emotional state plays a key role in the current and forthcoming computational technologies. On the other hand, this monitoring and analysis should be as unobtrusive as possible, since in our era the digital world has been smoothly adopted in everyday life activities. In this framework and within the domain of assessing humans’ affective state during their educational training, the most popular way to go is to use sensory equipment that would allow their observing without involving any kind of direct contact. Thus, in this work, we focus on human emotion recognition from audio stimuli (i.e., human speech) using a novel approach based on a computer vision inspired methodology, namely the bag-of-visual words method, applied on several audio segment spectrograms. The latter are considered to be the visual representation of the considered audio segment and may be analyzed by exploiting well-known traditional computer vision techniques, such as construction of a visual vocabulary, extraction of speeded-up robust features (SURF) features, quantization into a set of visual words, and image histogram construction. As a last step, support vector machines (SVM) classifiers are trained based on the aforementioned information. Finally, to further generalize the herein proposed approach, we utilize publicly available datasets from several human languages to perform cross-language experiments, both in terms of actor-created and real-life ones. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The PErvasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments (PETRA))
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Open AccessArticle
Sign Language Technologies and the Critical Role of SL Resources in View of Future Internet Accessibility Services
Technologies 2019, 7(1), 18; https://doi.org/10.3390/technologies7010018
Received: 23 November 2018 / Revised: 18 January 2019 / Accepted: 22 January 2019 / Published: 29 January 2019
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Abstract
In this paper, we touch upon the requirement for accessibility via Sign Language as regards dynamic composition and exchange of new content in the context of natural language-based human interaction, and also the accessibility of web services and electronic content in written text [...] Read more.
In this paper, we touch upon the requirement for accessibility via Sign Language as regards dynamic composition and exchange of new content in the context of natural language-based human interaction, and also the accessibility of web services and electronic content in written text by deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. In this framework, one key issue remains the option for composition of signed “text”, along with the ability for the reuse of pre-existing signed “text” by exploiting basic editing facilities similar to those available for written text that serve vocal language representation. An equally critical related issue is accessibility of vocal language text by born or early deaf signers, as well as the use of web-based facilities via Sign Language-supported interfaces, taking into account that the majority of native signers present limited reading skills. It is, thus, demonstrated how Sign Language technologies and resources may be integrated in human-centered applications, enabling web services and content accessibility in the education and an everyday communication context, in order to facilitate integration of signer populations in a societal environment that is strongly defined by smart life style conditions. This potential is also demonstrated by end-user-evaluation results. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The PErvasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments (PETRA))
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Open AccessArticle
Perspectives on Assistive Systems for Manual Assembly Tasks in Industry
Technologies 2019, 7(1), 12; https://doi.org/10.3390/technologies7010012
Received: 30 October 2018 / Revised: 19 December 2018 / Accepted: 14 January 2019 / Published: 16 January 2019
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Abstract
Small lot sizes in modern manufacturing present new challenges for people doing manual assembly tasks. Assistive systems, including context-aware instruction systems and collaborative robots, can support people to manage the increased flexibility, while also reducing the number of errors. Although there has been [...] Read more.
Small lot sizes in modern manufacturing present new challenges for people doing manual assembly tasks. Assistive systems, including context-aware instruction systems and collaborative robots, can support people to manage the increased flexibility, while also reducing the number of errors. Although there has been much research in this area, these solutions are not yet widespread in companies. This paper aims to give a better understanding of the strengths and limitations of the different technologies with respect to their practical implementation in companies, both to give insight into which technologies can be used in practice and to suggest directions for future research. The paper gives an overview of the state of the art and then describes new technological solutions designed for companies to illustrate the current status and future needs. The information provided demonstrates that, although a lot of technologies are currently being investigated and discussed, many of them are not yet at a level that they can be implemented in practice. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The PErvasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments (PETRA))
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Open AccessArticle
ParlAmI: A Multimodal Approach for Programming Intelligent Environments
Technologies 2019, 7(1), 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/technologies7010011
Received: 10 December 2018 / Revised: 25 December 2018 / Accepted: 7 January 2019 / Published: 11 January 2019
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Abstract
The proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and services and their integration in intelligent environments creates the need for a simple yet effective way of controlling and communicating with them. Towards such a direction, this work presents ParlAmI, a conversational framework featuring [...] Read more.
The proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and services and their integration in intelligent environments creates the need for a simple yet effective way of controlling and communicating with them. Towards such a direction, this work presents ParlAmI, a conversational framework featuring a multimodal chatbot that permits users to create simple “if-then” rules to define the behavior of an intelligent environment. ParlAmI delivers a disembodied conversational agent in the form of a messaging application named MAI, and an embodied conversational agent named nAoMI employing the programmable humanoid robot NAO. This paper describes the requirements and architecture of ParlAmI, the infrastructure of the “Intelligent Home” in which ParlAmI is deployed, the characteristics and functionality of both MAI and nAoMI, and finally presents the findings of a user experience evaluation that was conducted with the participation of sixteen users. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The PErvasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments (PETRA))
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Open AccessArticle
RabbitRun: An Immersive Virtual Reality Game for Promoting Physical Activities Among People with Low Back Pain
Received: 20 October 2018 / Revised: 14 November 2018 / Accepted: 11 December 2018 / Published: 20 December 2018
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Abstract
Low back pain (LBP) is one of the most common problems among adults. The usual physiotherapy treatment is to perform physical exercises. However, some LBP patients have false beliefs regarding their pain and they tend to avoid physical movements which might increase their [...] Read more.
Low back pain (LBP) is one of the most common problems among adults. The usual physiotherapy treatment is to perform physical exercises. However, some LBP patients have false beliefs regarding their pain and they tend to avoid physical movements which might increase their pain and disability. Virtual reality (VR) has proven to be an effective intervention in improving motor functions and reducing pain perception. Existing VR interventions for LBP rehabilitation were based on a non-immersive VR, whereas to effectively reduce the pain intensity, we need an immersive VR. In this paper, we introduce the development and evaluation of a serious game called RabbitRun with an immersive experience to engage the patients in a virtual environment and distract them from the pain while performing LBP exercises. The initial usability evaluation results suggest that RabbitRun game is enjoyable and acceptable. The game is easy to play and learn and most of the participants are willing to play the game at home. This solution will enhance the rehabilitation outcome since the patients who are suffering from LBP can use the system at their home and train more for long period of time using a smartphone and low-cost virtual reality device, such as Google Cardboard. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The PErvasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments (PETRA))
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Open AccessArticle
Development of a Change Management Instrument for the Implementation of Technologies
Technologies 2018, 6(4), 120; https://doi.org/10.3390/technologies6040120
Received: 31 October 2018 / Revised: 22 November 2018 / Accepted: 11 December 2018 / Published: 13 December 2018
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Abstract
The manufacturing industry is increasingly being dominated by information and communication technology, leading to the development of cyber-physical systems. Most existing frameworks on the assessment of such technological advancements see the technology as a solitary system. However, research has shown that other environmental [...] Read more.
The manufacturing industry is increasingly being dominated by information and communication technology, leading to the development of cyber-physical systems. Most existing frameworks on the assessment of such technological advancements see the technology as a solitary system. However, research has shown that other environmental factors like organizational processes or human factors are also affected. Drawing on the sociotechnical systems approach, future technologies could be evaluated using scenarios of digitized work. These scenarios can help classify new technologies and uncover their advantages and constraints in order to provide guidance for the digital development of organizations. We developed an instrument for evaluating scenarios of digitized work on the relevant dimensions ‘technology’, ‘human’ and ‘organization’ and conducted a quantitative study applying this instrument on three different scenarios (N = 24 subject matter experts). Results show that our instrument is capable of measuring technological, human and organizational aspects of technology implementations and detecting differences in the scenarios under investigation. The instrument’s practical value is significant as it enables the user to compare and quantify scenarios and helps companies to decide which technology they should implement. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The PErvasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments (PETRA))
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Open AccessArticle
A Taxonomy in Robot-Assisted Training: Current Trends, Needs and Challenges
Technologies 2018, 6(4), 119; https://doi.org/10.3390/technologies6040119
Received: 15 November 2018 / Revised: 9 December 2018 / Accepted: 10 December 2018 / Published: 13 December 2018
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Abstract
In this article, we present a taxonomy in Robot-Assisted Training; a growing body of research in Human–Robot Interaction which focuses on how robotic agents and devices can be used to enhance user’s performance during a cognitive or physical training task. Robot-Assisted Training systems [...] Read more.
In this article, we present a taxonomy in Robot-Assisted Training; a growing body of research in Human–Robot Interaction which focuses on how robotic agents and devices can be used to enhance user’s performance during a cognitive or physical training task. Robot-Assisted Training systems have been successfully deployed to enhance the effects of a training session in various contexts, i.e., rehabilitation systems, educational environments, vocational settings, etc. The proposed taxonomy suggests a set of categories and parameters that can be used to characterize such systems, considering the current research trends and needs for the design, development and evaluation of Robot-Assisted Training systems. To this end, we review recent works and applications in Robot-Assisted Training systems, as well as related taxonomies in Human–Robot Interaction. The goal is to identify and discuss open challenges, highlighting the different aspects of a Robot-Assisted Training system, considering both robot perception and behavior control. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The PErvasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments (PETRA))
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Open AccessArticle
Identity Management and Protection Motivated by the General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union—A Conceptual Framework Based on State-of-the-Art Software Technologies
Technologies 2018, 6(4), 115; https://doi.org/10.3390/technologies6040115
Received: 31 October 2018 / Revised: 29 November 2018 / Accepted: 30 November 2018 / Published: 4 December 2018
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Abstract
In times of strongly (personal) data-driven economy, the inception of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) recently reinforced the call for transparency and informational self-determination—not only due to the penalties for data protection violations becoming significantly more severe. This paper recaps the [...] Read more.
In times of strongly (personal) data-driven economy, the inception of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) recently reinforced the call for transparency and informational self-determination—not only due to the penalties for data protection violations becoming significantly more severe. This paper recaps the GDPR articles that should be noticed by software designers and developers and explains how, from the perspective of computer scientists, the summarized requirements can be implemented based on state-of-the-art technologies, such as data provenance tracking, distributed usage control, and remote attestation protocols. For this, the challenges for data controllers, i.e., the service providers, as well as for the data subjects, i.e., the users whose personal data are being processed by the services, are worked out. As a result, this paper proposes the ideal functionality of a next-generation privacy dashboard interacting with data provenance and usage control infrastructure implemented at the service providers to operationalize the legal rights of the data subject granted by the GDPR. Finally, it briefly outlines the options for establishing trust in data provenance tracking and usage control infrastructures operated by the service providers themselves. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The PErvasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments (PETRA))
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Open AccessArticle
Average Load Definition in Random Wireless Sensor Networks: The Traffic Load Case
Technologies 2018, 6(4), 112; https://doi.org/10.3390/technologies6040112
Received: 29 October 2018 / Revised: 17 November 2018 / Accepted: 23 November 2018 / Published: 28 November 2018
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Abstract
Load is a key magnitude for studying network performance for large-scale wireless sensor networks that are expected to support pervasive applications like personalized health-care, smart city and smart home, etc., in assistive environments (e.g., those supported by the Internet of Things). In these [...] Read more.
Load is a key magnitude for studying network performance for large-scale wireless sensor networks that are expected to support pervasive applications like personalized health-care, smart city and smart home, etc., in assistive environments (e.g., those supported by the Internet of Things). In these environments, nodes are usually spread at random, since deliberate positioning is not a practical approach. Due to this randomness it is necessary to use average values for almost all networks’ magnitudes, load being no exception. However, a consistent definition for the average load is not obvious, since both nodal load and position are random variables. Current literature circumvents randomness by computing the average value over nodes that happen to fall within small areas. This approach is insufficient, because the area’s average is still a random variable and also it does not permit us to deal with single points. This paper proposes a definition for the area’s average load, based on the statistical expected value, whereas a point’s average load is seen as the load of an area that has been reduced (or contracted) to that point. These new definitions are applied in the case of traffic load in multi-hop networks. An interesting result shows that traffic load increases in steps. The simplest form of this result is the constant step, which results in an analytical expression for the traffic load case. A comparison with some real-world networks shows that most of them are accurately described by the constant step model. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The PErvasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments (PETRA))
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Open AccessArticle
Seasonality of Discrepancies between Admission and Discharge Diagnosis for Medicare Patients
Technologies 2018, 6(4), 111; https://doi.org/10.3390/technologies6040111
Received: 2 November 2018 / Revised: 20 November 2018 / Accepted: 22 November 2018 / Published: 27 November 2018
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Abstract
Admission and discharge diagnoses of in-hospital patients are often in discord. Incorrect admission diagnoses are related to an increased cost of care and patient safety. Additionally, due to the seasonality of many conditions, this discord may vary across the year. In this paper, [...] Read more.
Admission and discharge diagnoses of in-hospital patients are often in discord. Incorrect admission diagnoses are related to an increased cost of care and patient safety. Additionally, due to the seasonality of many conditions, this discord may vary across the year. In this paper, we used medical claims data to develop a methodological framework that examines these differences for Medicare beneficiaries. We provide examples for pneumonia, which is a condition with seasonal implications, and aneurysm, where early detection can be lifesaving. Following a Bayesian approach, our work quantifies and visualizes with time-series plots the degree that any clinical condition is correctly diagnosed upon admission. We examined differences in weekly intervals over a calendar year. Furthermore, the median length of stay and the mean hospital charges were compared between matching and non-matching {admission, discharge Dx} pairs, and 95% confidence intervals of the difference were estimated. We applied statistical process control methods, and then visualized the differences among the hospital charges and the length of stay, per week, with time-series plots. Our methodology and the visualizations underline the importance of a rigorous and non-delayed diagnostic process upon admission, since there are significant implications in terms of hospital outcomes and cost of care. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The PErvasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments (PETRA))
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Open AccessArticle
Human Activities Recognition Based on Neuro-Fuzzy Finite State Machine
Technologies 2018, 6(4), 110; https://doi.org/10.3390/technologies6040110
Received: 7 November 2018 / Revised: 19 November 2018 / Accepted: 22 November 2018 / Published: 26 November 2018
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (1680 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Human activity recognition and modelling comprise an area of research interest that has been tackled by many researchers. The application of different machine learning techniques including regression analysis, deep learning neural networks, and fuzzy rule-based models has already been investigated. In this paper, [...] Read more.
Human activity recognition and modelling comprise an area of research interest that has been tackled by many researchers. The application of different machine learning techniques including regression analysis, deep learning neural networks, and fuzzy rule-based models has already been investigated. In this paper, a novel method based on Fuzzy Finite State Machine (FFSM) integrated with the learning capabilities of Neural Networks (NNs) is proposed to represent human activities in an intelligent environment. The proposed approach, called Neuro-Fuzzy Finite State Machine (N-FFSM), is able to learn the parameters of a rule-based fuzzy system, which processes the numerical input/output data gathered from the sensors and/or human experts’ knowledge. Generating fuzzy rules that represent the transition between states leads to assigning a degree of transition from one state to another. Experimental results are presented to demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed method. The model is tested and evaluated using a dataset collected from a real home environment. The results show the effectiveness of using this method for modelling the activities of daily living based on ambient sensory datasets. The performance of the proposed method is compared with the standard NNs and FFSM techniques. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The PErvasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments (PETRA))
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Open AccessArticle
The Touch and Feel of the Past—Using Haptic and VR Artefacts to Enrich Reminiscence Therapy for People with Dementia
Technologies 2018, 6(4), 104; https://doi.org/10.3390/technologies6040104
Received: 1 October 2018 / Revised: 1 November 2018 / Accepted: 8 November 2018 / Published: 13 November 2018
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Abstract
New technology always needs validation in terms of stakeholder acceptance and usability. This challenge also applies in the case of technology for reminiscence therapy for people with dementia. We are looking at how to overcome this situation and identifying how technology can support [...] Read more.
New technology always needs validation in terms of stakeholder acceptance and usability. This challenge also applies in the case of technology for reminiscence therapy for people with dementia. We are looking at how to overcome this situation and identifying how technology can support reminiscence therapy. Therefore, we are conducting user research with people with dementia and their caregivers, prototyping multimedia approaches and testing for efficacy and acceptance of these approaches. Reminiscence therapy is an important aspect in the care for people with dementia as it improves their wellbeing. So far, mostly conventional, analog media is used for this purpose. Our qualitative research suggests that technology can enrich traditional reminiscence therapy, foster conversations, and support positive interactions between caregivers and people with dementia. As outcomes, we identify that special consideration should be directed toward the choice of personally relevant and engaging content, contextual factors of the therapy situations, and high usability of potential therapy artefacts. Suggestions for future research and further prototype iterations are provided. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The PErvasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments (PETRA))
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Open AccessArticle
Filling the Joints: Completion and Recovery of Incomplete 3D Human Poses
Technologies 2018, 6(4), 97; https://doi.org/10.3390/technologies6040097
Received: 5 October 2018 / Revised: 26 October 2018 / Accepted: 27 October 2018 / Published: 30 October 2018
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Abstract
We present a comparative study of three matrix completion and recovery techniques based on matrix inversion, gradient descent, and Lagrange multipliers, applied to the problem of human pose estimation. 3D human pose estimation algorithms may exhibit noise or may completely fail to provide [...] Read more.
We present a comparative study of three matrix completion and recovery techniques based on matrix inversion, gradient descent, and Lagrange multipliers, applied to the problem of human pose estimation. 3D human pose estimation algorithms may exhibit noise or may completely fail to provide estimates for some joints. A post-process is often employed to recover the missing joints’ locations from the remaining ones, typically by enforcing kinematic constraints or by using a prior learned from a database of natural poses. Matrix completion and recovery techniques fall into the latter category and operate by filling-in missing entries of a matrix whose available/non-missing entries may be additionally corrupted by noise. We compare the performance of three such techniques in terms of the estimation error of their output as well as their runtime, in a series of simulated and real-world experiments. We conclude by recommending use cases for each of the compared techniques. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The PErvasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments (PETRA))
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