Watch Your Language: Using Smartwatches to Support Communication


  • Humphrey Curtis, King’s College London
  • Timothy Neate, King’s College London


With an ageing population and increased prevalence of people living with complex communication needs there is a growing need to design scalable high-tech augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) apps to support agency and social participation. For end-users it is currently difficult to regulate the prominence of most mainstream high-tech AAC devices and tablet-based apps – they are socially conspicuous, offer poor portability, are aesthetically unconsidered, and obstruct vital non-verbal communication pathways. In response to this, we leverage participatory design techniques to design and evaluate two discreet and inconspicuous AAC smartwatch apps. We engage with a community of people living with the language impairment aphasia, to collaboratively build and iterate both a smartwatch app for ‘public’ communication: Watch Out and ‘private’ cognitive support: Watch In. Following this, we evaluate both apps during an experience prototyping workshop with an actor and subsequent focus group. We report results from communication interactions with both apps, interviews and feedback responses. Participants were not only successful in using both AAC smartwatch apps but, critically, the wearable and discreet intervention did not restrict users’ agency and non-verbal communication.