When the doorbell rings, when the smoke alarm is activated or an incoming call is received, we are aware. As a hearing individual we take for granted all of life's audible events. However, those who are hearing impaired are reliant on assistive listening devices (ALD) - a handheld, or belt clip product, alerting the individual to the event by vibration.
The challenge, today more children and young adults are hearing impaired than ever before. I began investigating the practical and emotional needs of these groups of people, to uncover unmet requirements and areas of opportunity.
Understanding the strengths and weakness of market's leading ALDs allowed me to challenge the method of communication for ALDs and develop a new approach for notification; tactile communication.
The design direction for the project focused on delivering a sensual form to accentuate the primary functions within the product, in a pure and honest manner.
Aquatic creatures were a source of functional and aesthetic inspiration. Fish gills have pneumatic qualities, they move in response to air flow. A similar behaviour is mimicked within product's the functionality.
How it works, for instance the smoke alarm is activated, now a Radio Frequency signal is sent to the product, awakening its internal pneumatic system.
The pneumatic system within is comprised of a tubing network, allowing air to pass to sequentially through the product. Air pressure is used to move external parts.
Continual pressing is felt on the inside of the wrist. The strength and repetition of the pressing is dictated by the importance of the alert.
The challenge, developing a product which is functionally superior to it's peers. Whilst maintaining a form factor which is suitably and aesthetically worn with pride on the wrist.
Many iterations of the prototypes were developed to create a hermitic seal within the internal tubing system.
Refinement of the design was achieved through a series of user trials analysing the amount of tactility required to notify the user.