Project Pivot: From Hardware to Software
If you have browsed through our site, you may notice that a lot of our prototypes and testing images include soap dispensers of various kinds. Indeed, our initial product idea (which you can read more about in previous blog posts) revolved solely around showering, and included an automatic soap dispensing set with a builtin screen that provided visual and verbal aids that guided the user through the showering process. We believed that the integration of screen and automatic soap dispenser was the most efficient and reliable way for our user to access technology in a wet environment, understand which product to use at each stage of the shower, and not deal with typical soap dispensers/bottles, which require fine motor skills.
We chose to focus on hygiene for people with cognitive disabilities early on, recognizing a major resource gap and an overwhelming desire for more independence in this realm. We decided on showering/bathing because it is such a fundamental need that requires many steps, and can be particularly difficult. Evidently, the shower/bathing environment presents a unique challenge for a designer as it includes lots of water and noise. Additionally, we very quickly learned that everyones' shower/bath routine differs dramatically. Dealing with tech in a shower, as well, did not seem like a feasible goal for our team given the brief manufacturing period our class (just under 2 months). Our lofty goals simply were not feasible within this timeframe.
Aubriana discussing our app with Jonny at Morgan Autism Center (MAC)
Finally, we wanted our product to be as accessible as possible. The shower set would drive up costs immensely, costing anywhere from $100-$300. Our app, on the other hand, is completely free and can be accessed on the App store! It was extremely important to our team that our product reach as many consumers as possible, as we are very passionate about our user group and want to help as much as we can.
Our team agreed that the most valuable element of the shower set concept was the screen -- the customizable auditory and visual aids that would accompany the showering experience. We decided to focus our efforts on building an app that would provide aids to guide our user through various hygiene tasks. And, for the first version of our app we would focus in on a more universal process: hand washing. We have plans to include more hygiene processes in the near future, however... More on that in the next post.