Case Study Reflection

Case: a 53-year-old man who could only lift his head and shoulder but not talk wants to communicate with family and friends

Group Members: Ewa and Nora

Final Presentation:

I. Introduction

We chose this case because we thought it was interesting and challenging to work with such limited functions. Our brainstorm and research processes were rather smooth since there are already some relevant devices and softwares available on market. At first we didn’t have a lot of background information about the subject, but it was fortunate that we met his therapist and obtained more information afterwards. Our biggest challenge would be the prototyping part. Although the process went smoothly eventually but at first the idea of prototyping itself intimidated us a little bit. Now we had some videos about using the two prototypes we made for both of our low-tech and high-tech solutions. We expect to meet the subject in person sometime since he is currently in Shanghai, and hopefully get some feedback from him to improvement our design.


II. Process:

Stage 1: Brainstorming 

At first the case appeared to be hard to me because what our subject can do is really limited. Also since we might not be able to prototype really high-tech solutions, it seemed there were not a lot of options. So what we came up with first is the low-tech laser pointing device, which was inspired by the on market picture board.  But then it was too simple and the functions were really limited. So on the day that we had our 6th class, we brainstormed more ideas. Ewa found something called head mouse online and we thought its functions match perfectly with what we need. As a mouse alternative, head mouse can potentially allow the subject to do anything on a laptop, especially with his functioning shoulders as two clicking buttons. So we decided to offer two solutions to the case study, a low-tech one and a high-tech one, just in case the subject has a preference based on his personal background. We got a lot of help from Luis and Jiwon in that workshop class and we were really grateful. Luis was really good at pushing us to think about questions like how the subject’s financial and educational condition will affect our solutions. With his instructions we thought further and took a lot of factors into consideration. Jiwon on the other hand gave good feedback and suggestions on how we could design the high-tech head mouse. Instead of using some motion sensors on the shoulders, she suggested some rods hanging down which could be touched by the shoulder. And that is actually what we did in our prototype.

After that class we thought it would be important that we obtain more information about the subject himself since it will determine our final design of the solutions. So we emailed Marianne and got told that the man is well educated and in a rather good financial situation. We were happy to learn that the patient would be able to use a laptop so that the head mouse solution could be further developed. But we also decided to keep the low tech solution just in case the subject prefer it to the other.

> Work in progress: brainstorm ideas on white board; list of questions needed to be asked;

Stage 2: Researching

After the brainstorm stage we moved onto the research stage. We wanted to figure out is available on the market first and how they can incorporate with our idea. So we found some free software online that can use the computer camera to capture the movement of the head to replace the mouse curser. We mainly tested out “Camera Mouse” (windows) and “iTracker” (Mac) and found that the biggest problem of these softwares is that the dwelling function is not that easy to use. That is, when you try to click on something, the software asks you to fix you movement and after a few second it will click automatically for you. The difficulty here is that first it’s really difficult for one to stay still for that long, and when it comes to some really small buttons it’s really difficult to click on. Other than that we thought the tracking was actually pretty good. So we tried to find something that could replace the clicking but didn’t find anything super satisfactory. So we decided to to prototype something that can make the clicking easier.

I also tried some softwares to complement/solve the problem of dwelling of iTracker. For example I tried DwellClick for Mac, which works in a similar way as iTracker. The user experience of these kinds of clicking supplements mostly don’t have satisfactory effect either, so we think that we still need to make our own.

In terms of the low tech solution we thought it would be easy to prototype on our own and the biggest issues will be how tiring it would be, is the laser easy to track and easy to be seen, etc. What we planned to do is to make a head set and find a way to fix a laser pen on it. The ideal effect would be that when the subject uses it the headset would be fixed on his head and the laser will track with the head movement.

> Work in progress: first draft of presentation;  testing on different softwares;


Stage 3: Prototyping

1. Low-tech :  The low-tech solution is easy to prototype. We used hard paper to make a ring on the head and placed the mini laser pen on the ring. We tested it with three different boards (with loose pictures, medium arrangement pictures, and tight arrangement pictures) and it all worked well. The only thing is that because the laser pen only gives out laser when the button is pressed we had to use tape to press the button as we tested it. This, ideally, will be solved to replace the laser pen with one that with a more functional laser pen which when pressed it will keep giving out laser and when pressed again the laser is off.

Please see testing video here:

2. High-tech: The idea of prototyping something high-tech first intimidated us, but encouraged by Marianne and with the assistance from Luis, we successfully made it possible with Makey-Makey. What we wanted eventually is to make the two shoulders the left and right click of the mouse, and by lifting them the mouse can work properly with the head tracking software. We made two wings attached to a cupboard head crown and put conductive tape on each of them. And then we made to should pad with conductive tape on them as well. When the pad and the wind touched the “mouse” is supposed to click. Then we found that the should pad was not necessary as it fell so easily and sometimes made it hard to feel that the shoulder touched the wing. So eventually we just put layers of conductive tape on the shoulder. As we tested the prototype with the software “iTrack” (the subject has a mac computer), the device would allow the subject to type, watch videos online and more. The user experience wasn’t too bad either, it was not tiring to use it for 10-15 minutes and it was very easy to learn how to use it.

With the simple Makey Makey, more wires could be connected to space, return, arrows on the keyboard. These functions could be incorporate into the prototype with more complicated shoulder movement/signals.

Please see video about watching a youtube video with the prototype here:


III. Challenges

Our project went mostly smooth actually, but some of the challenges we had in the process would be the part of making the prototype. Ewa and I don’t feel super comfortable with playing with arduino and stuff so we were sort of reluctant to prototype the high-tech solution (while it actually turned out pretty low-tech in the end). But we know it is very important to test and experience out design before we suggest it to the subject, we still did it in the end. Surprisingly it wasn’t difficult at all to use Makey Makey and construct the prototype, and I think we both enjoyed the process very much. Our prototype looked like a toilet with two feet, which we laughed at each other for a long time. I am really glad that we managed to make it happen. And I think what I learned from it is that sometimes it’s really important to get out your comfort zone and have a try. If we only stay at the theoretical level we will never know if our proposal will be feasible and good for the subject

IV. Future Improvements

Now the prototypes are really simple. In the future after talking to the subject we wanna see which he would like to try first and make some improvements. For the laser pointing device we would like to explore if the laser could be put in to the glasses or a hat. And for the head mouse, of course we want to make the device more comfortable to wear, that might include replacing cupboard with some other materials like plastic and foam. Besides we would love to make the device more smooth to use. Also we might consider combine the two solutions if the subject is willing to use both of them. And aesthetically, we definitely want to make the devices more beautiful to wear. Hopefully we can get some feedback from the subject himself as well.


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