In the Spring 2018 semester at NYU's Tandon School of Engineering, Team Vanguard (Annie Brinich, Katie Lau, Richelle Newby, Jimmy Lauchoy, Isabel Chen, and Calvin Lauchoy)was tasked with designing a product, service, or solution to solve for exclusion in a deskless workplace.
We were initially overwhelmed with tons of ideas going into this project. The prompt was extremely broad, but could be broken up into two central components: deskless workspace and disability. We scoured the web for interesting articles and sent them to each other through a group chat. We thought of various deskless professions including mailman, farmer, freelancer, and clown. Later that week Annie had found an article about designing a kitchen for a blind chef. We all immediately took to the idea, namely because food preparation is such a universal experience.
Our Proposed Solution
Our proposed solution is a wearable technology that helps visually-impaired chefs interact with their kitchens in a more safe and efficient manner.
The wristbands, REMI and RAMI, have a series of functions designed to make a chef’s cooking experience more efficient and safer. REMI, the primary wristband, is the vehicle of communication. It has a speaker and mic so the user can give voice commands. It also has a camera, a heat sensor, haptic feedback, grippers, and a micro-USB port for charging. RAMI, the secondary wristband, has the aforementioned capabilities, with the exception of the camera, speaker and mic.
Unsurprisingly, our initial idea wasn’t too close to what the final product turned out to be. Through multiple interviews, tests, and rapid iterations, we watched as REMI and RAMI emerged from what was originally a cotton glove into a much more seamless and intuitive device.
For the purpose of our storyboard and user journeys, we wanted to develop a user persona that was largely inspired by our research and interviews. Our user, Mariah is 43 years old and has recently developed cataracts, but is a seasoned chef. The cataracts make her vision slightly blurrier but allow her to make out basic shapes. She knows her kitchen like the back of her own hand and is adjusting to her altered vision.
The journey maps convey four key concepts: the task at hand for the user, the interaction with REMI, REMI’s response, and the features REMI utilized at that moment in time. Each step of the user journey contains these pieces of information. Our goal was to cohesively reveal how REMI and the user work in tandem. Furthermore, we wanted to emphasize the fact that REMI is always reading its surroundings to ensure the user’s safety.
REMI went through dozens of iterations. It began as a five-ring device attached to a band around the wrist, with the wristband serving as the housing for REMI’s processing. It then evolved into a gauntlet-like structure that was comfortable to wear but ineffective at conveying much information. REMI became a simple band around the wrist that the user could speak to for navigation instructions. As a standalone bracelet REMI paired short spoken instructions with haptic feedback to help users navigate kitchen environments, but left the hand without REMI in danger. REMI was eventually joined by RAMI, a device to be worn on the opposite wrist, to help guide the user, but with fewer functions than REMI. Through dozens of user tests, interviews, and iterations we pared down the amount of features REMI offered to make it an effective assistant that maximized the user’s safety and efficiency in the kitchen.
Tests revealed REMI needed to function on both hands since cooking is an active, two-handed experience. We also created an Information Input/Output Matrix to show how the functionalities of REMI works in different situations. Spatial mapping, haptic feedback, and infrared sensors are among other things that will help enhance the cooking experience for those who are visually impaired as well as those who just want a more efficient tool when they are cooking. Our final prototype was 3D modeled and printed, featuring both bracelets and the visual design of specific functionalities. While it isn’t made of the flexible material we hoped it’d be and isn’t adjustable, it’s a good representation of what we envision REMI to ultimately look like.