Using Automation to Improve the Quality of Life for Mobility Impaired Seniors
March 2017 – April 2017
- Tangible Interaction
- University Project
- User Researcher
- Experience Designer
A-Tire is an automatic rotating wardrobe crafted to improve the living standards of the mobility-impaired. It was designed to minimize the inconvenience of getting dressed by integrating automation and technology into the task. It is a proof of concept designed for the Laneway House Project, a modular home that provided personalized medical care for elders. However, the applications of A-Tire can be extended to other situations as well.
Electronic Tools Used
Craft Tools Used
To design a product that would improve the lives of the elderly, we needed to gather research on the issues they faced. We examined research papers with Google Scholar and news articles from reputable news agencies, regarding major ailments amongst seniors. From this, we learned of the many ailments elders face, such as memory loss, loss of strength, fragile bones, mobility issues, and cancer.
We interviewed our elderly family members as well as seniors from the neighbourhood to uncover what ailments affected them the most. These interviews helped us to dive deeper into their thinking patterns, which allowed us to better empathize with them.
The main questions we asked included:
“Tell me about your daily routine”
“What are some challenges you face when going about your day?”
Mary is 70 years old who lives alone and suffers from upper mobility issues. She cannot raise her arms above shoulder height or bend down to reach below her waistline. However, Mary loves to dress up whenever she goes out or entertains. Over the years, Mary has collected many different types of clothing and accessories.
Once we figured out who we were designing our product for, we were off to the drawing boards brainstorming solutions that could enhance Mary’s quality of life. We had many ideas, but ultimately decided on a semi-automated rotating closet built to display clothing at a comfortable height for Mary to reach. As we thought out feature specifications for the design, we looked towards existing products with similar ideas for inspiration.
The AutoPantry and ClothesCarousel utilized horizontal rotation to display their items from a specific viewpoint. This would work well with Mary’s mobility issues. Unfortunately, since all the shelves looked the same, it was hard to remember which item was on which shelf. Often people would cycle through the entire array of shelves before landing on the desired shelf. This interaction can be time-consuming and frustrating if there are many shelves.
Our design goal was to ensure that Mary and other users alike would not feel stigmatized for using A-Tire. Researching existing products would allow us to design similar yet fluid experiences. Therefore, there were strong design considerations to existing features such that people like Mary would familiarize A-Tire as any other life-enhancing product.
A-Tire’s form factor is similar to a Ferris wheel and the ClothesCarousel. Each shelf is colour coded and can be manually selected using the shelf-selection cube. The shelf selection cube has coloured faces to denote the coloured shelves. The colour facing up determines the shelf shown. By default, A-Tire will automatically rotate to display clothing based on current weather patterns. Of course, Mary can always override this decision by selecting another shelf. Having appropriate clothing for current weather conditions readily available is often quite convenient. In circumstances where power is unavailable, which is indicated by a light, a treadle enables manual interaction of A-Tire.
There were two scenarios we wanted to cover with A-Tire, Automatic Selection, and Custom Selection.
A new day has started, and the sun is shining. Mary slides out of bed with the intentions of getting dressed for her lunch plans. She opens up A-Tire, and it is already displaying the shelf with clothing for sunny days. Mary takes a light pair of pants and a pastel blue blouse, and she’s ready to go about her day.
Mary has a semi-formal dinner event and needs her favourite dress. She takes the shelf selection cube and places it purple side up. A-Tire moves the purple shelf in view, and Mary grabs her little black dress. She turns the cube red side up and waits for A-Tire to rotate to the coordinating shelf. Once the red shelf is visible, and at the correct height, Mary reaches over to grab her silver clutch and her black matching shoes. Now she’s all set to go out.
Key Takeaways and Reflection
A-Tire creates a seamless and automatic experience in getting dressed in the morning. Its features would help eliminate the cognitive load of considering what to wear in the morning. Also, the weather functionality would ensure a person would be dressed appropriately for the current and near-future weather conditions. The prototype demonstrated that its applications could extend further to other groups of people; however, it’s still wouldn’t be for everyone. Further testing is required to understand what other groups would benefit from A-Tire.
Unfortunately, due to time constraints and limited resources, we were unable to prototype the auto-sorting feature of A-Tire, which could drastically increase a person’s quality of life. By colour-coordinating the hanger rods and cube faces, we were successful in creating a system that puts minimal taxation on the user’s memory by reinforcing memory by recognition versus recall.
The main design principle behind A-Tire was accessibility. With that in mind, we crafted a suitable solution for people with upper-mobility issues. By maintaining a familiar form factor, A-Tire is able to minimize the feelings of stigma. We feel that by introducing tangibility, this system will help to lay the groundwork for future investigation into storage for users with upper mobility impairment.
If you would like to chat more on what I learned throughout this process, connect with me through email at [email protected].