Equarun

Short Summary

Equarun is used to help deafblind people (especially those suffering from Usher Syndrome, a progressive disorder affecting more than 400,000 people worldwide) and their guides engage in safe and comfortable

long-distance running.

 

This device is capable of transmitting complex instructions on road conditions, striking a good balance between freedom and safety.

Equarun being used across running tracks, crowded public spaces and even outdoor tracks within forests.

Skills

Advanced Embodiment Design - Electronics Prototyping - PCB Design - Design Research - 3D Printing - Rapid Prototyping

Tools Used

Solidworks - Keyshot - Adobe Premiere Pro - KICAD - Arduino C Programming

Roles

As a project manager, I was responsible for two main roles:

 

Conduct design tests in the form of weekly agile sprints to unravel insights from a very sensitive user group—  deaf-blind runners

Translate those insights into embodiment design improvements. I was also responsible for the design of the haptic interaction as a part of the embedded system (PCB)

Design Methods Used

TRL Analysis - Ergonomic Studies - Usability Studies - Unity in Variety - 9 Moments of Product Experience

Duration

Six months

Credits

Documentation and Aesthetics

Shu Yan

Rendering

Zhi Cai & Jianghui Li

Fabrication & Prototyping

Alberto Obradors

 
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Usher Syndrome affects nearly 10,000 people worldwide in the form of acquired deaf-blindness. Imagine losing your senses gradually.

 

How would that feel? For some of the Ushers, their vision gets clouded similar to the gradient I have overlayed on top of this image.

Running is often suggested as a form of therapy to allow the Ushers to cope with the anxiety and stress of losing their senses.

 

But how do they run across forests, race tracks or even marathons with ease?

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Presenting Equarun, a haptic assistive device meant for the deaf and blind runners.

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Equarun allows for the comfortable guiding of such runners across all such terrains.

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With the principle of 'As less design as possible', we didn't overpopulated the interface with too many buttons.

 

All the essential instructions for navigation was easy to follow with the physical structure and some advanced commands were communicated by means of haptics.

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There was a small twist though. 'Empathize' was not just a phase in the design process, but so much more.

 

To get into the groove, we hosted blind lunches, made friends with the runners and participated in marathons to help us empathise throughout the design process.

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User personas were detailed.

 

How does a day in the life of a buddy or the Usher look like?

 

Currently the buddies use a cotton strap to provide commands to the ushers

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Ideation involved not just sketches, but also involved understanding the macro, micro and meta experiences that could be provided through the product.

 

For instance, what are the social, cultural and emotional attributes which the product should comprise of?

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The design goal was deconstructed by 'Divide and conquer'.

 

For safety, we performed running gait tests. For robustness, we performed FEA analysis and did some stress testing

 

For making it intuitive, we iterated on the size and shape of the handle, buttons etc through testing

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We performed action research, i.e going out in the field every week and testing our assumptions with the runners.

 

To get deeper insights from the ushers, we sought help from a speech expert who helped us gain tacit insights - How do they feel about it? How do they think etc.

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We performed action research, i.e going out in the field every week and testing our assumptions with the runners.

 

To get deeper insights from the ushers, we sought help from a speech expert who helped us gain tacit insights - How do they feel about it? How do they think etc.

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Another challenge we faced was to make vibrations intuitive.

 

How do you communicate actions merely through vibrations?

 

So we designed a new language for haptic instructions which was tested for its intuitiveness.

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Another challenge we faced was to pack all the dope electronics into the size of the handle.

 

Various designs were made which were optimized to make it fit neatly into.

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We made the assembly level planning for the first 40 units of Equarun.

 

Right from printing, sanding, milling, painting, soldering. How does the overall system architecture look like?

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Along with the product design, advocacy was equally important to spread awareness on Usher Syndrome and provide equity when it comes to running.

 

Through the Running Blind Foundation, I was involved in spreading the message on Equarun :)