Pressure Project 3: MyDoor

mydoorlogo

Short description of the selected exclusion area and explanation for your group interest.

We wanted to capture as many exclusion areas as possible under the realm of physical disability while still creating something that might actually be appealing to a general audience. Our main target audience was those who lack dexterity and struggle with performing fine motor tasks because we realized anyone could potentially experience a degradation of this skill in the form of many different ailments (elderliness, Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy, strokes, etc.). Similarly, we also wanted to focus on those who are physically unable to perform certain motor skills entirely such as paraplegics and the blind.
Documentation of the ideation, sketching, and prototyping of your proposed system.

Ideation

After sifting through many ideas that revolve around helping visually impaired people in the tasks that they perform in public, we shifted our focus to creating something that might make a user’s personal home more accessible. At first, we wanted to make refrigerator doors, which are hefty and sometimes difficult to maneuver for those with weaker strength, more easily opened by adding a button to the door that swings it open automatically.

Then, we expanded the idea to household doors in general since opening them can be difficult depending on the circumstances of the person using them (their muscle strength, physical frame, occupation of hands, etc.). We all agreed that it’s challenging to unlock a door and open it when your hands are full, like when you’re carrying groceries, and this difficulty could also be applicable to more personal situations like shaky hands fumbling with keys.

Our solution was to augment the process by equipping the door with near field communication technology that would recognize a user with a unique device (such as a key fob or wristband) and, if authenticated, automatically unlock and open the door. We’ve seen this in public buildings with wheelchair accessible doors, but our solution provides for access to a  user’s a private home.

Sketching

Before actively building our prototype, we began researching multiple home door systems. We specifically focused on elements of current doors that primarily excluded those with disabilities in dexterity, locomotion, or sight. In the following sketch, the left column depicts users next to regular doors, while the right column depicts users in front of our idealized MyDoor system.  

sketch2

Now that we had a vision for our final product, we began sketching the basic throughline of our desired system. The picture below demonstrates the simple steps in our process:

pp3_sketch1

 

Prototyping

With various tools from class at our disposal, we set out to build a simple, automated door system that is representative of our desired product. Our team initially gravitated towards the Arduino kit, which we hoped to use as the controller for the door. The plan was to send pulses to a servo that would in turn open and close a door. After discussing how the user would actually operate the servo with their key bracelet, reservations began to emerge within the team. The supposed “quick and dirty” prototype appeared to be growing in scale, so we turned to the LittleBits kit in order to scale our design back.

littlebitscircuit

The LittleBits kit held everything necessary to replicate our early sketches. Our 10-piece kit contained one light sensor, which was quickly used as the NFC respondent. Of course, the light sensor does not contain any NFC capabilities, but we found it to be a solid representative of our idea. Once the light is blocked out from the sensor (or in MyDoor terms, once the user has held their NFC-ready bracelet up to the door), the rest of the LittleBits circuit will receive power. We wired the sensor to an LED (this light lets the user know that their NFC connection was successful) and a pretty powerless motor. This given motor is more finicky than a servo, but its shortcomings were quickly superseded by its simplicity. Now that we created a general outline of our prototype, we had to figure out a way to house it.

PrototypePhotos

Our “house” was created using simple crafting supplies such as cardboard, tape, and paperclips. As you can see above, we created a makeshift door frame out of a leftover shoebox. In order to create the door, we ran a straightened paper clip through one edge of blue cardboard. This paperclip acted as an axle for the door, allowing the door to remain flush with its cardboard frame.

We proceeded to route our LittleBits circuit throughout the frame. The battery and wiring are held within the shoebox out of sight. The light sensor and its respective LED indicator hang on the right side of the frame, and the motor sits underneath the cardboard door, holding said door in place. Once the user presses their bracelet up to the light sensor, the motor will turn, allowing the user access to their home.

ezgif-942171186.gif

Given that the prototype is a straightforward “quick and dirty” attempt at our proposed solution, there are features left out now that would certainly be included in an expanded system. The most glaring example is our door is unable to close without manually altering the direction of the LittleBits motor. Ideally, the door will shut closed after a certain period of time since opening. Our hope is that this time limit would be editable by the user via an application, and that application would house other information like user profiles and allowed-NFC bracelets.

 

Individual Reflections

groupPhoto

Ben:

It only seems natural that the conclusion to this class’s Pressure Project Trilogy feels earned. Like any third installment in a franchise, this assignment was immediate and familiar; we knew exactly what to expect regarding planning, preparation, and the pressure of a 48-hour time limit. However, I believe I can speak for the rest of my group when I say that I did not expect this assignment’s ideation process to take as long as it did.

Our first night felt like a never-ending brainstorming session, which left me somewhat frustrated because we were unable to come up with a foolproof idea. A proper night of sleep must have helped, because we immediately hit the ground running on the following day. Once we centered on an idea concerning automated doors, I immediately began constructing the box that would hold the LittleBits circuitry.

Outside of co-writing this blog post with another group member, the majority of my contribution to this assignment involved building the actual prototype. Abstract thinking goes hand-in-hand with Computer Science, so physically constructing something feels extremely refreshing for me. Overall, I am pleased with the final prototype. It remains rough around the edges, but it is a fully-functional representation of our end goal, and that is enough to make me proud of not only my own work, but my team’s work as well.

Brittany:

This project was one of the harder projects with regards to brainstorming. Our group spent a lot of time bouncing around ideas, and occasionally focusing too much on a disability and forgetting the big picture. Additionally, it happened more than once that we would have a breakthrough idea, that was already in the works or on the market. Without letting this deter us though, we were able to build upon many of the previous ideas that we had come up with and combine most of the areas we were previously trying to singularly design for, all into one system. The further we discussed this idea, the more we knew it was the right one for us.

So, the short design period definitely put a strain on this process, but once it was decided
the ideation and design stage was the most rewarding of all the pressure projects yet. The ideation stage was the longest stage (not counting the actual prototype creation), and each of our contributions evolved our design in some meaningful way. For example, we originally were going to create the components for the door, but upon suggestion of having the door open itself, we realized it would be more portable and sensible to create an entire door for the system. It was eye opening to actually have this part of the process happening with such detail. Because of this, I was frequently inspired to add more sketches along the way, which seemed appropriate since the more we designed, the wider our design area became (i.e. from dexterity to dexterity, seeing, and locomotion).

I really enjoyed the prototyping stage, and getting to see the finished product, and how it could actually be scalable to a real world model.

Overall, I was involved in each stage of the project to various extents: contributing to the brainstorming and ideation stages, supplying materials and “systems” to crack for the prototype, as well as picture taking, the blog outline, and creating the storyboard and design sketches. Additionally, I will help to present.

Ethan:

This was probably my favorite pressure project that we have done. I really enjoyed working with a more technological component, and I liked the idea of revolutionizing something that could not only change the way someone living with a disability may live, but could change the way that someone without a disability could live.

I will admit that when I first started thinking about ideas for this project that I was designing mostly with the idea that I we were trying to improve the lives of those with disabilities. This was true obviously, but the bigger picture was that we were trying to design something that could make the lives of everyone easier, with a focus on those with disabilities in a way that would not feel excluding to them compared to those living without disability.

My initial idea that I had brought forth to the group was to create a pair of glasses, that could be worn by someone who has lost their sight. By using a proximity sensor and a small chime, buzzer or noise emitting device we could (in non-dangerous situation [I.e somewhere not near traffic]) eliminate the need for a walking cane, or seeing eye dogs as the glasses would allow them to detect objects and avoid collisions. In later prototypes we could even toy with the idea of mapping physical “views” with a certain range, melody and pitch of tunes that would allow the user to become familiar with the physical layout of the surroundings using an audio based layout.

We all agreed that this too heavily focused on the disability and although it would be useful and very cool, it was very much designed specifically for one purpose. It was back to the drawing board.

From there I began to think about daily interactions around the house and how to make them easier, not only for someone suffering from disability but for even myself. In class on Tuesday we were told that we needed to really observe, live and understand the lives of the people we are designing for (especially in the case of disability) in order to really get a well thought out functioning model. Having very little time I found it hard to try to imagine living with a disability but I was able to think back to times that I struggled with everyday tasks and tried to make the ideas carry over. For instance, when I had a broken arm when I was younger I found that I had trouble opening the refrigerator with my non-dominant hand. From there I began to wonder about those who have lost limbs, or even those who are confined to wheelchairs and lack the necessary leverage to open heavy fridge doors. I thought of a fridge that would have a door that operates with a gentle push button door release which would then allow the door to slowly swing open of its own accord allowing the user minimal interaction. Unfortunately Japan has apparently already beat us to it and has a product like this.

Finally I was lucky enough to have the idea that we decided to work with for the pressure project. Again, having no disability I needed to put myself into a predicament that could be analogous to having a disability. I like to eat healthy and that requires frequent trips to the super market (follow me here, I promise this story is going somewhere). Because I have to shop a lot and buy large quantities of food at one time, and because I am just so lazy, these trips ultimately end with me attempting to carry 47 bags in one trip up to my room on the third floor of my house. When I am greeted by a locked door, it can be frustrating, tiring, and downright impossible to fish a key out of my pocket, struggle to get it to the lock and then open the door without dropping, breaking or maiming the food I just purchased. It was from this experience that I began to think about those (similar to the fridge) who would struggle with door leverage. But even more so than that, those who would have difficulty manipulating small objects with their hands, those who would have trouble applying torque to a key and those who may not even be able to see the door. I am very excited about this idea because it not only applies to those who are struggling from serious disabilities, but can help to make the average joes life easier as well as even help a drunk person get into their house easier. Heres the idea:

Keys are a pain. They’re easy to lose, they can be frustrating to orient into the lock, you might grab the wrong key. Who knows. If we were to create a wrist band that contains all of the encoded information required to activate a fob mechanism lock on a door we have just solved that problem. The user wears this key on their wrist, (a location they will have a hard time losing a key from) when they want to get into their house they swipe their wrist on the door and the door swings inward allowing them entry. No more pesky keys to deal with, no more semi broken handles stopping your entrance and no more dropped groceries. Those confined to wheel chairs could easily reach the door to swipe in, those who are visually impaired need only find the door itself and not a tiny keyhole, those with Parkinson’s no longer have to struggle with keys. The possibilities are endless.

I was able to help design our prototype and although it is on a small scale I am very happy with the results. Clearly this was a project that I was able to get excited about and it actually felt like we were designing for the people instead of designing to get a good grade in a class. I’m sure there may already be a system like this out there, but this is a system that I would be interested in doing more work on because it can help such a wide range of people.

In terms of group contribution I feel I helped most with idea generation, but I also played a good part in the creation of our mock door situation using the ‘little bits’. It was a really exciting prospect to create something that could be so widely applicable.

Sam:

Although this pressure project was particularly stressful in the brainstorming and ideation phases, once we had the idea for the automatic door and how applicable it could be to a variety of exclusion areas, our group was very confident during the rest of the design process. Initially, I came up with some potential ideas for aiding visually impaired people, but after we settled on our final idea, I tried to see if we could expand our idea to more than one exclusion area. I figured out some of the more technical details of how the process and mechanisms inside the door would work. I also realized how we could utilize the components in the Little Bits kit for our prototype to loosely replicate what the experience would be like in the real system (e.g. using the light sensor in the kit as the NFC authentication receiver). In terms of the report, I was responsible for writing the introductory section where we expressed our interest in a variety of different exclusion areas and the description of our ideation process.

Overall I really enjoyed designing our idea and fleshing out the prototype once we had momentum after the initial steps of the design process. With the last pressure project, I had a little bit of trouble envisioning what my unknown community was like behaviorally, but the prompt for this project was even harder to comprehend because there are daily tasks that I take for granted that are completely different for someone with a specific disability. It inspired me to research what blind people might struggle with on a day-to-day basis, but I was surprised to find out how much we underestimated what they can do. When designing our idea, it was challenging to figure out how to make it compatible with a pool of different exclusion areas, but it also allowed me to empathize with the groups in a way that just wasn’t possible in the second pressure project. Finally, the prototype was so rewarding to make! After discussing how we could implement the NFC recognition and door swinging system with the Little Bits kit and cardboard, I was pleasantly surprised to see the final result as accurate as we had initially described it.

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