Sunday, November 25, 2007

Innovation Protocol - Day 2: The Social Face of Innovation - 1st posted on 25th Sept 2007

The pictures for the second day of the workshop is at my Flickr website here.

With information and pictures gleaned from our visit on the first day, the team then get down to business to take a relook at the various types of user experiences that would definitely enhance our target user's quality of life. What we have learnt so far, or what we have decided to look into, are the various opportunities that would allow us the luxury to impact either Mdm K, or in an alternative sort of way, future Mdm K's. The team do believe that there would be many more Mdm K's in the immediate and longer term, so what we should do perhaps is not so much as to offer a product or service that perhaps is totally new, because maybe, just maybe, that would be better done and left to the private product-related companies. What we did decide though is to relook at how some experiences that are currently in place, could be made a little (or a whole lot) better with some minor/major tweaking! And guess what, one of the first major product that caught our attention was the ubiquitous wheelchair.

Creating the iChair

What the team feels is the need for one to improve the quality of the users' experience when one is sitting on wheelchair. With the target users of the current iPod generation in their 50s to 70s in mind, the team decided to
see how the use of the wheechair, and the array of users' experience that comes along with it, can be better improved, to make it an even more user-centric design, coupled with the idea to eliminate the notion of it being
a medical equipment! In fact the team believes that in as much as an iPod is considered to be the product design industry's standards of what makes a successful product (although more on a more technical aspect, it is not that
superlatively excellent!), we would also want the redesigned wheelchair to be an iPod of sorts, an iconic product for the less-abled (versus the disabled), something that can be used to be the talk of these target users, and at
the same time, be one single thing that they can be proud to have, own, or even be seen to be in one! Very much like how iPod is an accessory that one would want to see and be seen, the team wants to remove the social stigma that is attached to the current wheelchair design, so that perhaps, just perhaps, it could also be as socially desirable to the less-abled, just like the iPod.

The team decided on a simple name for this new redesigned wheelchair, the iChair. AS you can see from the pictures of our model-cum-prototype, it is indeed something that perhaps captures or elicits user-centricness in its design. With sexy curves (although it is not that sexy when one is working with corrugated boards), its intechangeable iPapa (inspired from uPapa..sorry Osim for borrowing from you guys! :) ), iButt butt massaging unit for those long tireless chats on the beauty of the iChair with your friends, in the comfort of your own Herman Miller-inspired Aeron Chair's wire meshing backing and butt support, to improve blood circulation, and at the same time improve ventilation to these 'rear' areas to eliminate smell and bed/seat sores. Or how about the motorised transport and navigtion system, which includes GPS and a small monitor for plugging your 10th Gen iPod to entertain you while you are navigating down the IR! And how about the Segway-inspired (sorry again, this time to Segway! :) ) navigation stick, that allows ease of use by offering soft-touch and frontal positioning, all this inspired by Mdm K, our original user in mind! When we first observed Mdm K while she is having her meal, we realise that the dexterity of her hands is pretty much limited, and although she is fiercely independent and would like to be feeding herself, but more often than not, due to her limited upper body motion capability, she is only able to get only 75% of the food from the spoon to her mouth...and she is also limited in terms of her frontal reach, which was thus THE major inspiration for this frontal navigation system.

The home

The team also looks at how the iChair can just be more than just a mobility machine of sorts, but more importantly, it is THE machine that can very much improve the quality of her users. To this we look at how Mdm K gets around to doing some of the basic things that we take for granted, such as moving in and out from her bed, getting around in and out of the bathroom/toilet, navigating her way, having her meals, and most importantly, how being seen in a wheelchair affect her, as well as her caregiver's self-esteem and social life, which is sadly almost non-existent. The team believes that the design of the current wheelchair, with the use of technology that is currently available, and perhaps being extrapolated to 30 years into the future, would indeed be something that is quite normal, and in fact almost a standardised item and one that would not really cost a fortune! The ability of the iChair to be able to lift the user by perhaps a max of 6 inches would be something that would enable the user to level herself/himself up to the level of the bed, which would hence increase her mobility of sorts. These coupled with the use of alternative materials that is lighter, tougher, waterproof, and is in fact more aesthetically pleasing, would in fact be something that can surely eliminate the problems that one faces when one sees a wheelchair!

The iChair...a possibility

The idea of reinventing something is not totally new, and is in fact something that is very much a part of Mankind's natural capacity! But the team sure do hope that somehow, somewhere, somebody in the future, would have the necessary wherewithal to realise the team's iChair, and perhaps, just perhaps, would contribute to making the lives of the less-abled that much more fuller.

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