- In my Third Year at University I was asked to develop a device that could help the user with their day by delivering a single piece of information. Touchwood is a single functional information device designed to deliver key information for the day ahead. The device would be placed near the front door so it could be easily accessed by the user as they leave their home. Design for the disabled is an area that we all became fascinated with after an interview with Amar Latif, a visually impaired individual. Due to this my design is aimed at the visually impaired.
When Amar visited us he we noticed that he had an “inappropriate” coat for the weather we were having. So we decided to remedy this issue in our product by sourcing weather information from the internet and subtly hinting at what jacket would be most appropriate. The fact that the device subtly hints at instead of telling the user what jacket to choose means that the user stills has his sense of free will, Amar stated when he was here that the best gift you can give a blind man is independence.
“The best gift you can give a blind man is his independence”
The product delivers its information by playing a D major scale, the higher the pitch the more appropriate the jacket. The device functions by taking an RSS feed into processing from Yahooweather.com, it is then split into three data fields: wind speed, feels like temperature, and current conditions eg. Rain, snow, stormy ect. Having all three of these variables allows for a wide range of conditions and many weather combinations. Each jacket is graded out of 9 as to how relevant it is to the current conditions, this is made possible by the device updating itself every 5 minutes. The circuitry is a collection of 6 capacitive sensors each triggered by the interaction created from the proximity of an electrical charge (a human hand), these sensors are hidden beneath the top panel of the device. The device also accommodates for very harsh or dangerous conditions such as hurricanes, it displayed this by flat-lining all the signals.
Designing for the blind created many design problems that we did not comprehend. This resulted in us having to make lots of design decisions throughout the semester, for example:
The device is situated at a much lower level than the average coat rack. This is due to the fact that the user has to be able to run their hand along the top to activate its primary function. This is also much more accessible for the visually impaired.
Once a jacket had been taken we had to come up with some way of making it easy for the user to return there jacket. We designed the coat pegs to be able to retract vertically hence obscuring the above surface. This allows for the user to run their hand back along the devices length until they feel the free peg slot.
After the device was complete I and my University class put together an exhibition that was very successful this gave me and my colleagues the chance to promote our work.