Feeling Connected

Feeling Connected


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 .

Feeling Connected; IoT supported remote

non-verbal communication for infants born with Deafblindness


Interaction design, Assistive communication, Non-verbal communication, Haptic communication,

Deafblindness, Autonomy   

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.


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.

Design process

In this project, human-centered design methods have emanated accordingly to the structures of the four phases in a Double diamond process. The four phases in a double diamond are structured to explore widely and open up in phase one and three and to focus and narrow down in phase two and four. The process assisted this project to understand the individual, the situation, and in addition to that, it pushed this design project forward by finding focus points. In the first phase of discovery, methods such as Ethnographic research were used to help understand the individual and the situation to not base anything on assumptions.

An assistive communication device was prototyped and tested with children between 1-8 years old to analyse how communication via vibrotactile stimulations was received and understood. The process and findings were recorded in written form together with suggested improvements and are published at the ACM library.

Process and methods

The double diamond design process model with the human-centered design methods placed out in the four different phases.

 01 Insight mapping

To find patterns and forge connections from research, netnography,observations and interviews, I used a method called insight mapping. This is used to” review and analyze all the information to identify key themes and opportunities” and helped me understand and define the individual in the situation and the needs.

03 Embodied sketching

Like sketching, embodied sketching, is a method used in the early design phase but compared to sketching, includes the experience. This method helped me explore possibilities and restrictions in design concepts by exploring how we experience vibrotactile stimulations by using different materials.  In order to emulate the sensation of a blanket that transfers vibrations, glass marbles were sewn into a pillowcase with an Micro Vibrator Motor placed in each corner.

02 Sketching

Bill buxton describes the attributes sketches to be inexpensice, quick, timely, 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.

04 Functionallity testing with children

The aim with the testing was to see how children from different ages reacts to vibrations and if the vibrations can be located by using hands and/or by sitting on the blanket. To make it more pedagogical, toys and animals were placed out by the different Micro Vibrator Motors(marked red) so to make it easier to communicate which one of the toy or animal were vibrating.

05 Prosodic features of rhythm & tempo

Illustration of the prosodic features of rhythm and tempo in a voice being transferred directly and fluently into vibrations in the blanket, which supports interpersonal communication in a non-intrusive way

06 Houde & Hill Role prototype

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.

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