Tag Archives: prototypes

Meet Bonnie Binary!

I’m Annie and I’m participating on the Parlours of Wonder project as an e-textile designer. You can learn more about what I do here.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend  Blaise Weston Court’s open day.
The Parlour of Wonder was busy throughout the day with all age groups  popping by and it was wonderful to have so much helpful feedback for my prototypes. I can now work on the improvements to the technology with confidence!
Prototype 1 – Chair accessories 
I was delighted with the helpful feedback I received about adding controls to an armchair. Several residents and staff thought it would be helpful to have sound in an antimacassar on the back of an armchair as many older people have hearing issues. They liked the idea of having controls just to the side of the arms on the chair so less mobile people could control their immediate environment. We discussed how these covers with embedded tech controls could be attached to the chair.  We will have to consider how the covers could be washed and the tech detached. The soft textile textures were much enjoyed and felt to be comforting on the arms. We will test further textures and colours to help people with visual impairment use the textile control buttons providing them with simple, easy to access, control over their immediate environment; for example with regards to the TV, radio and room lighting.
Prototype 2 – The musical cushion
We discussed how I might use the Tangible Memories – Story Creator app to download sounds onto the cushion surface using the shells. I asked residents and visitors what sounds they would like to embed in the cushion. Popular responses where favourite music, bird songs, messages and comments from family and friends that could be refreshed on a weekly basis. I am thinking about how I can continue with these great ideas!
Prototype 3 – The cushion control
I have tested the cushion control with several people. We discussed colour, texture, size and function and asked what would people like to control. In response, I would like to make several other prototypes with clear bold primary colours for the soft buttons, emphasising the use of texture so you can find the buttons easily both by touch and visually. Areas of soft fur to stroke and provide comfort were also popular. We discussed the idea of simplifying the tech and providing large, easy to use soft buttons, on or off, using the cushion to control the radio, TV or a light to give an older person control of their immediate environment.
interactive fabric cushionjean 2
Jean very generously took time to try out my prototype and offer invaluable feedback; thank you!
Another prototype I am developing for the Parlours of Wonder project involves linking audio to images; the older residents and school pupils particularly liked activating the bird song that came from each of these familiar bird iamges.
sound interraction
Thank you to the staff and residents of Blaise Weston Court for all your help and support on the day , as well as all the visitors I spoke to!

Testing prototypes for dementia care

During the second day of our rocking chair trial at Deerhurst, we were also testing out a new handheld prototype, developed by creative technologist and sculptor Steve Symons. This wooden prototype plays nature sounds and music when it is picked up, tapped, shaken, smoothed and generally explored through touch. The top surface is embedded with pebbles and pieces of wood and conceals the network of electronics and programming that is hidden inside. Underneath, on the base of the prototype is a discreet speaker.

Jane, staff carer at Deerhurst, holding the interactive audio prototype by creative technologist Steve Symons.

One of the first participants to visit us in the Garden Room this morning was a resident who is new to Deerhurst and just settling in. Betty was a very jovial character who really enjoyed shaking the handheld prototype and touching the different textures of embedded stone and wood. On contact with her hands and triggered by the movement, the sound of seagulls started squawking at Betty. She laughed and joked that the birds must be hungry ‘because we were mean and had forgotten to feed them!



When Betty tried out the rocking chair for the first time, she put her head back, closed her eyes and started singing along to one of the songs that she recognized. She reminisced about her parents as she listened to the poems and nature sounds, and described her experience in the rocking chair as ‘lovely, very moving’ and commented that she ‘could stay here all day’.

Joyce was the only repeat resident who had tried out the rocking chair on my previous visit. On the first test day, Joyce had been upset and in tears before sitting in the chair, but after listening to the audio and rocking, she became very calm and left smiling, and generally seeming much happier. Today she closed her eyes and nodded off to sleep for most of the session.

Joyce’s goddaughter Beverly was visiting today and suggested that it would be good to have the option of an automated rocking feature on future versions of the chair, as she felt that Joyce’s condition and stage of dementia would mean that Joyce would forget to rock. Beverly also tried out the chair, finding it very comfortable and when asked about her preferred audio content, she said that she would choose to listen to poetry and short stories.

During the course of this short pilot study, thirteen different people have tested the rocking chair at Deerhurst, including care staff and family, as well as residents. We hope to secure further funding next year, in order to develop these prototypes and explore, in greater depth, the benefits of nature on well-being in dementia care.