Sketches should be inexpensice, quick, disposable, plentiful, ambiguous and lastly suggest and explore rather than confirm. This is one of many quick, inexpensive sketches that led to the final concept.
The purpose of this design project was to propose qualities in communication as design recommendations for developing assistive communication devices for infants with Deafblindness in order for the infant to feel connected to the context and for the caregiver to feel connected to the infant, without the need for physical contact. The design process resulted in six qualities: Direct, Spatially informative, Fluent, Individual, Turn-taking, Feedback and a final concept supporting these qualities.
The concept consists of a blanket that can connect to the microphone of a mobile phone. The mobile phone provides the blanket with the caregiver’s location (direction and distance) making it spatially informative and transfers speech directly into vibrations. The concept strives to support fluency in a conversation by using the individual prosodic qualities of rhythm and tempo in a person’s voice as input, which transfers into vibrations in the blanket as an output. As it is not a software that translates a language but transfers voice to vibrations, there are possibilities to develop interpersonal communication. Furthermore, the concept of the blanket takes the qualities of turn-taking and feedback into account to structure a frame of communication, which is needed to confirm if the information has been received and understood.
Every year, six to eight people are born with Deafblindness in Sweden and there are around eighty different syndromes that can cause this disability. In today’s situation, infants born with Deafblindness do not have access to information about who and where individuals in their surroundings are unless they have physical contact with these individuals. However, it is not always possible to obtain physical contact and it is at times like these the infant can feel alone in the world, as the world ends at the infant’s fingertips.
Establishing a form of communication can be challenging and therefore caregivers to infants born with Deafblindness can receive informational and emotional support from centers, organizations, and communities. However, there is a lack of support in the form of tangible Internet of Things devices that can support the fluency and social interaction in communication when physical contact is impossible.
This project was my master thesis project and was in collaboration with Certec. Certec is a part of the Department of Design Science, Factuality of Engineering at Lund University and undertakes research and education on Rehabilitation engineering and design. Certec contributed with the project suggestion:” Haptic toys or communication device". To work with the topic of Deaflindness was a new world for me and was the reason for choosing such a topic. During the project, I got to explore the challenges and opportunities of living with the impairments by contacting experts from Certec, The National Resource Center for Deafblindness in Sweden, and expert users who are living with combined vision and hearing impairments.
This project won the IoT 2020 Best Paper Award at the Workshop: IoT-based Health Services and Applications, during the 10th International Conference on the Internet of Things .
a) Mother sharing her location (direction and distance) with her infants who is lying on the blanket, while she puts on her shoes.
b) The father connects to the blanket as well from inside the kitchen. The infant understands who they are by what they say and how they say it and where they are by clear directions of the vibrations.