Assisting and advancing listening.
During the winter of 2013 we had the opportunity to sponsor a project with Western Washington University's senior industrial design studio. The assignment was timely: define and design for the emerging Social Wearable Health market.
The students had to identify a market need, and then design a wearable device that contributed to a healthy lifestyle. This included a stationary dock for charging/data transfer and the user interface located on a smartphone or tablet. The results had to unite under a consistent design language while also accomplishing their individual, functional requirements.
In the United States, over 37 million individuals suffer from some form of hearing loss. This would create the largest disability class, though hearing loss not officially recognized as a disability. This leads many users to take up to eight years before being fitted for a hearing aid while dealing with impaired hearing. The stigma behind the hearing aid and its association with a disability was the largest driving force behind users waiting, followed by poor accessibility and poor adjustability due to small controls.
Our goal was to eliminate the stigma associated with hearing impairment, while emphasizing trends and current technology. The wearable device uses a unique form factor to not relate it to any other hearing apparatus on the market. Creating a unique device makes it dissociable with the market, and viewed more as an entry into the technology market then the medical. By not covering the ear the device makes the user still appear approachable, and not closed off from the world, inviting conversation.
Adjustment of the device was moved onto the the users smartphone. Not only does this allow for users to easily change settings, but the processing power of a smartphone can personalize and adjust the hearing directly for the user, diagnosing on the fly. This interface can also benefit the general earphone wearer, not onyl the impaired. Identifying speech and important information automatically, while also pairing with other devices in the environment gives the everyday person added listening and communication ability that everyone can benefit from.
WWU Sr ID Professor
WWU Sr ID Class of 2013
Core77 Design Award
Spark Concept Award - Finalist