Industrial - Honours
Connect is a smart AI system for people with dementia in aged care facilities. It is designed to encourage and enable independent interactions that stimulate and empower. The significance of Connect, is in its ability to be accessed from the cloud, where family can upload videos and recordings for the person with dementia to watch in real time. The purpose of connect is to create moments of clarity through family.
“…It just gives her such an uplift. To see me come in. It doesn’t have to be a real long visit, so long as you go in.”Family Member of a Person with Dementia (PARTICIPANT 3 from research)
It was important that the design solution directly addressed one of the most concerning issues identified, the rapid deterioration in Dementia due to the isolation in aged care facilities. The aims and objectives were targeted specifically to address the issue of isolation, lack of social interactions and involvement with family and friends. From this, the project focused towards designing a product that would distract or entertain residents from the isolation or loneliness. By focusing and creating a system that is personalised to the individual, it is hoped that re-connecting residents with family and culture would improve or trigger moments of clarity. Where the direction for the project would focus on the constant loneliness and lack of stimulation by keeping the connection to family open through a personable approach. The design would ultimately focus on empowering a person with dementia through encouragement of interactions.
Connect is the first product to utilize a smart AI system that connects family for people with dementia. Heavily inspired by generational products for familiarity and to appeal to the older generations, Connect was created to relive and recreate memories that make an impact. It’s a portable device that stores visual and verbal reminders categorised into the following: home, family, nature, and music. By connecting to the cloud, family can constantly upload and share videos of their life into the categories, providing the user with both the choice and control to choose what they want to watch. More importantly, through sharing videos, the users become involved and are kept connected with their families.
For personalisation, during the initial set-up, the system is set to be attuned to the user from account details to voice recognition to display and wallpaper settings. It’s designed to guide and support the user to independently interact with the device and explore at their own time. With every interaction, the Connector system collects data such as favourite or most viewed videos for a better experience. Essentially, Connect bridges the distance when family is separated, so a person with dementia is always connected in some way.
I’m trying, I’m trying…Ian Armstrong (Advanced dementia)
Connect is designed to be a constant companion for people with Dementia. To grow with users and support them while connecting family as if they are right next to them. Within the context, there are two main scenarios in which Connect is situated, within the home and the aged care facilities. The ideal scenario is that a person with dementia is diagnosed early, and an Occupational Therapist or health worker prescribes the user with Connect as a tool to help with their cognitive functioning. It’s designed to be a tool that can help stimulate them both mentally and physically through the interactions. A memory box that can be used to store videos and songs that will help them as their dementia progresses. It not only connects them but keeps them grounded when the transition from the home to aged care or from one ward to another. Connect is meant to be a constant for people with dementia that goes where they go, always keeping them connected to family and friends.
Connect is designed with two main parts; the front with the handle is injection moulded as one piece and the back is made from cedar wood that clips into place. The handle is designed to provide extra grip and portability for the device. The back is instrumental in holding and securing the internal components such as the PCB boards, surround sound speaker and LCD Display screen. Together, the main body creates a presence that is noticeable and portable.
Connect was also designed with dials and buttons that mimic the 60’s/70’s style. The buttons were created for tactility with international standard icons for familiarity. All buttons are created from aluminium with a chrome plated finish to fit the style. The left and right buttons were designed with a slightly more vintage feel to set itself apart from the other buttons. The volume dial, for differentiation from the channel dial, was created with an outer cedar wood layer to also match the back of the model. The on/off button is a simple flip switch, similar to previous products. It was important that the interface matched the icons to simplify the experience.
In order for users to connect to the device, Connect has both Bluetooth functionality and Wi-Fi for a wireless connection to enable family members to upload onto the cloud and directly into the categories on the interface. This is done by accessing and logging into the users account to make the upload.
In regards to the charger, the housing materials were specifically chosen for their conductive ability for wireless charging – adding more stability and ease of use to the product. The charging mat is an aluminium based charger that can conduct through both wood and plastic. The idea is that the charger, will be assembled (charging cord and mat connected and plugged into an electric port) and always stationed within the user’s bedroom by family.
Connect has a touch-sensitive screen, that through the settings can be turned on or off for the carers or depending on the users cognitive functioning. The screen is circular to make it easier for the user to visually process and focus on what they see. The circular screen shape also made it possible to equally balance the speaker grills around the screen for a more polished sound and completed the aesthetic look.
When users interact with the product, as well as visually seeing a clear image, it was also important that the product could remain stable when touched. Hence, Connect was designed with tactile grips on the bottom that would help stabilise the product to the table due to the friction caused when moved.
It was important to keep the packaging simple but also display and showcase the model. To create packaging that can be used to store it, keep it safe and remind the users it’s there. Hence, the display box was the best way to show the model and give it more presence. Included in the packaging was also a personal note addressed to the user with login details, instructions for use and safety, wireless charger and cable and the block sponge for the model to safely sit.
I’m never seen my father so alert before…he has never reacted so much to anything…Anne armstrong (DAUGHTER OF A PERSON WITH DEMENTIA)
It all came down to making a difference. Connect is the solution I hope will change the aged care system in Australia for the better, where the quality of life for residents and users with dementia improves. The aim is to empower and connect family with residents to distract them from the isolation and shatter the stifling silence that follows through the halls in the dementia ward. The nature of Connect was designed to engage and stimulate users to an alert and active state, that challenged both their hand and eye coordination. Connect is the solution to improving people with dementia’s cognitive functioning and emotional being by involving family through a simplified device. Through Connect, residents with (and without) dementia can now have unlimited access to family.
I want to bring the outside world within and make a difference. I want my grandfather to know he’s not alone and that we are always thinking of him even when we aren’t physically there. I hope to fill the silence.Leena Al Sallakh (Granddaughter of Ian Armstrong)
Leena is an industrial designer with a deep appreciation for the design process. She is extremely passionate about designing for accessibility to create a universal impact through a human-centered approach. Her goal is to make good designs that push the boundaries from a cultural influence and ultimately empower the users.