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In the years ahead, as a result of the increasing demand for ubiquitous and continuous access to information and services, information technologies are expected to evolve toward a new computing paradigm known as ambient intelligence. Ambient intelligence will be characterized by invisible (i.e., embedded) computational power in everyday appliances and other common physical objects, including intelligent mobile and wearable devices. Ambient intelligence will have profound consequences on the type, content, and functionality of emerging products and services, as well as on the way people will interact with them, bringing about multiple new requirements for the development of information technologies. In addressing this challenge, the concept of universal access is critical. This paper discusses the anticipated opportunities and challenges that ambient intelligence will bring about for elderly people and people with disabilities, envisages new scenarios in the use of ambient-intelligence technologies by users with diverse needs and requirements, and identifies some of the critical issues that will have to be addressed.
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