Designing for one


Eight of Britain’s brightest engineers, designers and programmers have been working over the past several months on series two of BBC2’s Big Life Fix, Inventing the Impossible. Series 2, which launched in July features 4 episodes, challenging the inventors to come up with life-changing solutions for people hindered by their health or the environment, and that struggle to complete everyday tasks.

Featured on the program in her second season as a ‘fixer’, Senior Design Strategist, Ruby Steel, collaborated with a multi-disciplinary team from Smart Design to help Susan, a 66-year old woman who has been living with Multiple Sclerosis for over 20 years. With a progressive form of the disease, Susan is unable to do anything for herself easily. With full-time carers, she relies on others to wash and dress her and has no ability to switch TV channels or call her family on the telephone without help, due to the extremely limited dexterity in her hands.

Challenged to create an assistive technology solution that would help Susan thrive more self-sufficiently at home, the team went through rounds of iterative experimentation, prototyping and designing to figure out how Susan might navigate voice technology to suit her needs. In just 4 weeks the team delivered a personalized voice solution that now exponentially improves her daily life. In so created an “accessibility jacket” for the Amazon Alexa, a layer that has helped Susan complete tasks such as listening to music and changing the TV channel, with ease.

Check out our video below for a recap of the project:

Ruby Steel said of the project, “Designing for one user with extreme needs has resulted in a product that pushes the boundaries of accessibility in existing voice tech, while inspiring us to think through future applications for those who might experience similar temporary or permanent disabilities. The designing for one process generates a profound sense of empathy, fosters creativity through constraints and is actually a foundation for inclusive design – a process that Smart has pioneered for 30 years. Susan’s delight with our solution is what drives us to do more.”

Click here to learn more about our perspective on successfully designing for voice technology.

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The Project Susan team included Ruby Steel, John Anderson, Will Merrell, Jasper Dekker, and Sam Roots.

Aug 2018