After returning from his exile and imprisonment, Dostoyevsky was not writing for a while, explaining it as: “It is hard to write, when what is lived is not sorted yet.”
It would be too much to equal Siberian katorga to an inspiring and exilarating 24h inclusive design challenge, but in terms of the new information and experience that needed processing, it felt somewhat similar. This is the reason, why it is much easier to write about the challenge now, some while after it happened.
Read on to find out how did it go, what is Konkylie and how can Parkinsons inspire innovation for all.
After an informational and inspiring presentation from Julie Cassim, Helen Hamlyn Research Centre research associate, the challenge was kick-started by all the four teams each creating their own “human machine” – where each person is a component, a clog or a paddle, depending on a machine. Ours, the machine of the Green team, was sparked off and propelled into sound-effect rich, animated collision action by our Design Partner, Bjarne Grevsgard.
We were given a task to find out about the everyday life of our Design Partner, Bjarne, a well known lifelong Norwegian TV and radio presenter and editor, still actively engaged in his work duties at Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (http://no.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bjarne_Grevsgard), who has had to deal with an onset of Parkinson’s disease for the last ten years and discover what difficulties the condition has introduced, how to deal with those, and where exactly lies the opportunity for an innovation that would improve his life quality, other Parkinsons patients’ life quality and, in fact, the quality of life for the rest of us.
We were attentively documenting our interactions, asking a lot of questions and having a pint or three with Bjarne at the vibey atmosphere of Grünerløkka on the first evening.
What struck me was how the perception of a person changes after looking behind the shell of the disabling syndrome. Bjarne’s humour, determination, knowledge and intelligence, sheer strength of character and charm are all veiled behind the mask of Parkinson’s.
Peeling away this veil was soon enough set to be the main objective of our team’s search for ideas.
We identified two main areas of exclusion:
Defined by loss of motor functions and onset of double vision. The brain-body communication deteriorates, therefore the body needs to be kept in almost constant action, because when stopped, is difficult to restart again. Double vision is triggered by the same loss of muscle tone and means the lack of reliable depth perception as well as the lack of ability to resolve detailed visual information. This all creates the need for long walks, frequent getting up from sitting position, consequently, requiring comfortable shoes, and a walking stick, stair and road depth variations being especially tricky to figure out.
Leaving his personal things on the floor is partly a clever trick, giving the reason for stretching and moving, when picking them up. However, this approach leaves them quick to catch dust, dirt and dampness.
This observation gave me an idea about two new modifications for the walking stick: First, it could have a hook for the bag or jacket, and the second, it could transform into tripod to stay upright while holding personal belongings. It could also be kitted with a depth-measuring torch.
If these modifications would be modular and combined with customisation service, maybe even rapid prototyping-based, we could have an ad-hoc production based business model.
The combination of fine motor skill coordination loss and double vision also means exclusion from using smartphones, but Doro “old people phone” in the image below is not what Bjarne loves using, having been an early tech-adaptor since his teens.
The second type of exclusion is:
The typical Parkinson’s affect on the body posture and control means the public encountering a person with the syndrome are likely to expect mental disability as well, and treat the person in a patronising way. The loss of full control over the muscle functions also prohibits a physical and one-to-one contact with grandchildren, both because it is not possible to carry them or to keep them away from running or climbing unsafely.
Despite these difficulties and prohibitions, a human need to be accepted, valued and loved, as well as the desire to be independent and in-tune with the latest technologies persist.
The Bjarne’s personality, professional heritage and passion for the latest gadgets inspired us to look for solution in the field of technology enabled story sharing.
Through countless discussions, not stopped during the short pauses of food intake, the concept of location- tagged user-created radio was created.
The service would enable to record the story at the location, where it would “linger”, its replay triggered by listening device entering the location.
This service would be made available through a smartphone app or, to make it accessible to those who cannot use detailed visual interfaces, through the device whose version 1 we designed: a simple, intuitive and haptic object, with two detachable parts, one made for recording, and the other one for track selection and listening.
Just to remind that the whole concept was created in just 24 hours, but I would love to see through proper development of the shape and interface of this object, involving understanding how it would fit in the lifestyle and aspirations of the target public, etc., etc.
A similar principle could be used to leave notes about products on shelves, to use as an exhibition guide, and to leave context-location notes to the family and friends. A recent trip to Stonehenge and Bath gave me some material for one more user scenario, where our product could replace the chunky and obviously inconvenient audio devices.
Awkward body-twisting and head&shoulders manipulation needed to multi-task with audioguide devices in Bath (above) as well as in Stonehenge (below).
Another important innovation is the concept of an automatic user account, a profile created by voice tag and voice recognition, not through online presence. This would include those with restricted access to internet due to health or situational exclusion.
It would also be useful to explore the possible connection with the recent research into voice recognition diagnostics, all explained in this TED talk: