Smart crutches
3 months
Bodystorming, Enactment, Workshop facilitation, Interviews, Rapid Sketching, Processing, Prototyping
Bianca Di Giovanni, Tore Knudsen, Katrine Lynggaard, Nick Pagee
Together with a team of four designers, we collaborated with the Sports Science Department of Malmö University to develop a concept for a new improved kind of crutches.
Research question: How might we improve the experience of walking with crutches for people recovering from an injury?
To begin with, we started familiarizing ourselves with the feeling of walking with crutches. We enacted a series of scenarios where people using crutches have particular difficulties, such as walking stairs or opening doors, and we observed and took notes of each others' gaits.
Main insight
Our main insight at this point was that crutches are supposed to be a prolongation of your arms, simulating an ape-like kind of behaviour where the user swings on their arms in order to release pressure form their legs. This gave us an idea of a workshop which we specifically designed with the aim to distance ourselves from what we assumed crutches should be like.
In order to forget about crutches as a tool and focus instead on the quality of the interaction, we designed a series of alien creatures with different shapes and conformation of their limbs.
What if the norm was not walking on two legs? What if we were inherently shaped differently? What would be our expectations on how the world around us should be designed?
After gathering all the ideas surfaced during the workshop we mapped them in a matrix which estimated the quality of the interaction that we were aiming for.
Prototype 1
The key purpose of crutches is to prevent patients from applying too much pressure on the injured leg. Throughout the healing process the patient will be able to apply from 0 to 100% of their total body weight.
Our first prototype couples a pressure sensor at the bottom of the user's foot and a gentle vibrator to remind them subtly and unobtrusively if they should release their weight on the arm or on the leg.
During the user testing we played around with the position of the vibrators. When the vibration was on the shoulders the user felt like the reminder was coming from an external person, someone always having your back. On the other hand, placing it on the leg felt almost like the crutch would complement your own nervous system by giving you a little shock in anticipation of a potential feeling of pain.
Prototype 2
Another harmful behaviour while recovering from a leg injury is when the patient attempt to take excessively large steps. The rotation of the crutch can be an indicator of how far the patient is trying to go. In our second prototype we integrated an accelerometer in order to detect the rotation of the crutch relatively to the floor. If this is too wide, the user is alerted by the use of red lights.
The image below shows a visualization of a harmful gait.
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