Book Amigo

To design a system for elderly people

Duration: 1 semester

Methods: Persona, Design Sketch, Experience Prototype, Disposable Camera Study, Cultural Probe, Prototyping, Material Semiotics, Usability Evaluation

Tools: Arduino Lilypad board, Tri-color LED, Vibe board, Arduino software, Elastic strips, Art and Craft supplies


DESIGN & METHODOLOGY: Inspired by the seminal works of Jodi Forlizzi, Peter Paul Verbeek and Klaus Krippendorf we explore the “ecology of the elderly” for this ongoing project. Ecology of elderly refers to the constellation of artifacts and the emotional relationships that are fostered through interaction with them as they are constitutive to meaning-making and value(s). Research indicates that devices that identify strongly with being able “disabled” have a lower chance of adoption in the daily lives of the elderly. Hence, for this project, we focussed on "aging and abilities" rather than "aging and disabilities".

Design Values Our user studies were designed with an interesting blend of cultural probes, contextual inquiry, and disposable camera study. The results of user studies and literature review led us to design framework for elderly people. An eldelry person feels very close to a particular space be it their home or particular place somewhere else. Following routines is connected with memory retention for elderly people. Social connectedness by means of friendships have greater effect om elderly people than via means of relations. Efficacy and independence are much valued by an elderly person. We clled this framework our design values and followed it to design for elderly people. We used this framework, resource management and usability results to choose one of the several designs we had in our mind.

We found that elderly women generally outlive their partners and often feel isolated. Such isolation often leads to depression, anxiety, and decreased socialization. Our design Book Amigo is a physical prototype of a bookmark that is connected with a library book discussion group. The design itself does not led itself to be associated with a particular age group or gender. It appeals to people who are interested in reading and discussing books. However, when used by old women, it provides them a sense of efficacy and does not generate a sense of dependence. Book Amigo leads to new friendships and probes elderly women to socializr more and hence not be taken down by the negative spiral of isolation and loneliness.

Prototype BoardOur prototype was a low fidelity but high resolution. We triedd to study form factors for our design. It was a time where we learnt that coding, and wiring up a circuit is easier than puting it all together in real form. Prortytping was extrememly iterative process. It was a time where we learnt to work with elastic strips, thread and needle, electric tapes, knotting, and band aids! We learnt things do not yield as you suppose them to, potential field is not as stong as it should be, LEDs need more voltage to light up than they indicate and it is very easy to blow them up. However, this process was very educative, fun, and paid off well.

EVALUATION: We conducted informal usability study to study form factor of our Book Amigos. Though we are targetting elderly women, Book Amigo is open to use by any group of population. Hence we tested it out with both male anf female participants. We realized how strongly a form is attached with meanings. Bookmarks having flowers and laces dig not go down well with our male participants.

Our CHI 2008 Work-in-Progress Paper BACK