Why this product?
Several groups with diminished mobility, such as the elderly, people with dementia, Parkinson's and rehabilitation patients, need support with daily activities. It's a societal desire to organize the healthcare these people need in their own environment as much as possible. New technologies, such as robotics, can play a role here. The creative industry can unite technological possibilities with human-based solutions through design. That is why Robot Care Systems ask design agency Spark Design & Innovation to work on this with them.
Designers are not afraid to stray off the beaten path
What doest the product entail?
Care Robot Lea (Lean Empowering Assistant) looks like a walker and helps with walking and with carrying grocery bags as well as offering active care. The care robot is equipped with lots of sensors and can navigate through a space completely autonomously, for example to go over to the user if they need to use the toilet at night. But Lea also offers social support. Using artificial intelligence, Lea can remind the user that it's time for some exercise. It can also help with better form or choosing the best route, reminds them of appointments and for example when to take medicine. Lea can even help people learn how to dance, by playing music and gently moving back and forth while the user hold on to Lea.
What is the contribution to and of the creative industry?
Remi Veenman from Spark, Lea project leader: “The user is key in everything we design: we like to think we're the user's conscience. While designing Lea, we constantly talked to the target audience and specialists to know what they're needs are as well as possible. That can be as simple as people like having a brake on their walker, so they remain in control. We also found out that it is especially important to user that Lea is accessible and comes across humble, and that the advanced technology should be as invisible as possible. They also wanted Lea to look attractive, like a product people would want, with a luxurious look and of high quality.”
Spark has a broad tool set of design skills and methods to use, so they can choose which approach is suitable based on the project. When developing Lea, they created different prototypes shortly after another to then test these with users. “We continued to develop Lea using a flexible iterative process of testing, constantly looking how people responded to Lea and how they used the prototypes. This process is in line with our core philosophy: 'see-build-think'. Observe, really think about it, build something, and observe again.” An integral approach was at the core of this project. Spark combined technology, functionality, ergonomics and the user in a creative way for an innovative product: Lea. “Because designers are naturally curious, we tend to come up with innovations that others wouldn't necessarily come up with. They are not afraid to stray off the beaten path to explore new, smart solutions.”
So what's next?
Lea is on the market right now, but the development continues. Because of the self-teaching software, that is also still being further developed with users and carers, we will be able to help more and more people – without the physical product having to be adjusted.