Archive for October, 2017

Designing for Dave: Individualized Design

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

I’ve taken several classes at MIT where we’ve discussed the design process. My personal design process involves establishing the problem, creating prototypes, testing those prototypes, and iterating to improve. I’ve found that designing specifically for my team’s client, Dave, is a lot different than designing for a generic class of users. In many cases, it is easier.

For example, when designing for a class of users, it’s important to make the design general enough that many people can use it. If one user tester has very specific requests, it can be hard to weight how likely other users are to have the same problem without doing a wide reaching survey. Then, that can accidentally prompt respondants to respond in a certain way. Direct observation may be the best way to learn about the needs of a user class, but it is hard to scale to a large number of potential users.

When designing specifically for Dave, however, we can take any suggestions he makes during interviews, observations, and testing to be definitive user needs. For example, if we were designing a TV remote control app to be used by anyone with MS, we wouldn’t know which one of their arms is stronger. We might design a flexible UI which allows the user to position different elements on the screen as works best for them. However, this could lead to a complicated and confusing design. Since we are designing specifically for Dave, we know that he has the best ability to tap the screen on the left side, and thus we can put the most frequently used buttons on the left side. This specificity would not be possible when designing for a class of users, and it is one example of how designing for one user is easier than generalized design.

The plot thickens

Monday, October 9th, 2017

For PPAT,  I am in Team Erica, which is working towards developing a primarily software solution for our client. Our client undergoes certain periods in which she is unable to communicate verbally and, at times, also feel disoriented, for a variable amount of time.

As requested, we are developing an iOS mobile application that will allow her to communicate and even send her location to others according to the severity of the episode. Before our second meeting with our client, we shared mockups of a potential app solution and asked for feedback on its main communication function.

However, towards the end of our meeting, something struck me. We were merely prefacing how the app would also have an “analytics” section which would automatically monitor instances in which Erica would report an episode and after it, allow her to add more data to the event, such as time of day or potential environmental causes. I realized that Erica’s episodes were so variable to the extent that neither she nor her doctors could identify clear causes. As such, it became apparent that our app solution would not just have one main role, which we thought would primarily be facilitating communication, but also in helping Erica ascertain what exactly pushes her to experience a nonverbal episode. For example, our client suspects that her episodes occur more often during specific seasons of the year, but she does not have the data to prove this correlation.

I believe that this was a very valuable meeting with our client since it added dimension to what our assistive technology could accomplish. Rather than solely assisting Erica in her time of disability, it could potentially help discover the root cause of it and even help her avoid these in the first place.

User-based Design

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

Design. It is difficult… to create the ‘perfect’ design. It is difficult… because perfection is at the user’s discretion. It is difficult… for one design to satisfy a large user base such as people with disabilities. Given that designing is difficult, it is a common misconception that great design skills stem from an innate gift. Such skills are more likely to be the fruit of hard work and practice. Even then, design skills for one discipline probably do not give an edge when designing for another discipline.

As a student in PPAT, I have already encountered some of the difficulties of design. When learning about Clovis and the ” Video ‘keyboard’ ” project, I founded a few misconceptions. The client profile states that Clovis expresses himself via video clips, and it featured the image of Proloquo2Go, a symbol-based communications application demoed in class. As a result, I jumped ahead and reasoned that the project would be to build an app like Proloquo2Go except with Youtube videos instead of short sound bytes.

I was wrong. Upon meeting Clovis and his family, I realized that my preconceived ideas were misguided. The idea of storing videos to be played back upon a simple tap strayed far from the desired activity. In fact, the video aspect of Youtube was not what they wanted in the first place; it was the dynamic user interface. After a few meetings and discussions, my team arrived upon the notion that we are to build a dynamic typing interface. My original mistake embodies a critical design mistake. A design that isn’t based off what the user wants. We look to work with Clovis step by step to get the app that he wants and needs.

Bottom line, design is difficult… but its that difficulty that makes it so challenging and great.

Breakthrough Assistive Tech for the Blind

Sunday, October 1st, 2017

Blindness continues to be a debilitating condition that affects the productivity and poses as a challenge to obtaining and sustaining employment. Some estimates posit that over 70 percent of those considered legally blind are unemployed. This figure, paired with the fact that most wearable technologies that aim to ameliorate blindness have hefty price tags – some totaling to over 13 thousand dollars, represents a veritable challenge in delivering solutions to the blind.


During the 2017 Invictus Games, an international Paralympic-style organized by advisors of Prince Harry, a promising breakthrough was showcased at a product innovation exhibit. Here, an organization called eSight Eyewear demonstrated its potential to disrupt the high cost of visual assistive technology by presenting its Muse eye headwear. Boasting a retail cost of $299, the device is already a game changer within its industry niche. It works by using an external camera to project images onto two high-definition screens facing the user’s eyes. To cater to each user’s visual abilities, the device provides a remote control to allow optimization of magnification, contrast, and other variables.

eyeSight product on person's head

eyeSight Eyewear demo

The novelty of the device does not end in its price.  eSight Eyewear’s device includes a meditation function. It works by incorporating analysis of a user’s brain’s electrical activity in conjunction with a mobile application that plays sounds recurring from nature. The reasoning behind this additional functionality lies in the proposition that eSight wants the product to cater to athletes’ recovery needs as well as reduce stress for the user. Although this may be considered a gimmick by some, the eSight Eyewear is certainly a breakthrough in assistive visual technology that won’t break the bank. Nonetheless, the product faces many challenges, most notably being since it can only assist the visual ability of blind people with relatively high functioning eyesight.


Human-Centered Design: Emotions

Sunday, October 1st, 2017

The paper “Assistive Technology and User-Centered Design: Emotion as Element for Innovation” published in 2015 focuses on the emotions evoked from the user perspective in using the Assistive Technology (AT). When we design for AT, our center of focus is usually one or more of the followings: user’s physical needs, capabilities and design constraints. However, in most cases, “it is the equipment not the functional problem that depreciates the person with disability to the eyes of other people.” The sense of isolation from use of AT therefore results in unfavorable use of the technology. Correspondingly, the emotional feelings of the user should be the priority of the AT design as means to truly offer satisfactory assistance to those in need. Instead of enhancing the physical capabilities of the AT design, it is by no means more important to innovate designs from an emotional standpoint.

This article relates greatly to the Human component of the HAAT model as well as to our specific AT project. It places greatest emphasis on how the user interacts with the AT as well as his/her feelings towards how others’ perceive of them under the help of AT. In particular, it is extremely important to understand where the inadequacy of some current AT comes from, specifically whether it is in fact a technological need or, more significantly, an emotional complaint. Technological complaints may be satisfied by advancement of most recent technology. Yet, emotional unsatisfactory requires a fundamental change in the AT designed.

“Pleasure and emotion support interaction and rehabilitation.” Where both user’s physical and emotional needs are met with the AT design is when AT achieves its success.