Around 38% of people with autism have to cope with additional cognitive impairments, commonly known as low-functioning autism (LFA). Next to well-known symptoms such as lack of social interaction, communication and imagination, the additional impairments form a highly care dependent group of people.
Taimo provides an aid for people with LFA. Regular clock reading is in many cases not possible, but a need for structure and planning remains. Taimo offers a physical representation of remaining time for activities through six icons. Each icon can light up and represents a song. A timer can be started on the product itself or using the corresponding application. After a song has ended, its light will fade and the next will start. With optional limitations managed by the caregivers, users may adjust remaining time through the knob on the timer, allowing for some self-management and input for their caregivers.
For my final project, my overall goal was to design a product for a healthcare related problem, applying and expanding my knowledge in user-centred design and technology in the process. After my experience with designing for dementia, I became interested in designing for different target groups to discover differences and similarities, in this case regarding low-functioning autism. A clear resemblance can be found in the difficulty in retrieving valuable insights from the target group. Similar to dementia, I believe that the people close to the target group are invaluable in this regard, both during the various phases in the design process, as well as in the resulting concept. For these target groups, this conclusion is drawn relatively straightforward due to the complexity of the target group. It has, however, made me aware of the relevance in examining the context in seemingly more obvious cases. Throughout my studies, I have become proficient in finding the information I need for my projects, and I believe my experiences during this project have provided me with an additional method to do so.
Regarding technology and realization, this project has caused a great advance in my professional development. Throughout my previous projects and courses, I have consistently improved my technological knowledge. For this project, however, additional learning was required. A considerable element in this regard was assuring secure wireless communication between timer and application. Both comparing the various options and developing the chosen method greatly increased my knowledge on the subject, which can be applied in any future project involving wireless communication.
During the physical phases of the prototyping process, I got acquainted with new methods and tools as well. Specifically, I have learned greatly about moulding and casting materials. I am familiar with using 3D printing and laser cutting to create complex shapes, and aware of their limitations. This project required a complex but soft shape. Using a combination of my familiar 3D printing skills and casting, I created this part. This experience and the corresponding research have significantly extended my skills in creating durable, complex and aesthetically pleasing prototypes.
Finally, working with a client has been an insightful experience. In this project, the client was quite familiar with the target group, which in certain cases required convincing for explorative directions. In accordance with some of my previous experiences, most people expect a direct solution for a problem during a design project, whereas I believe experiential approaches could eventually result in more effective solutions. I learned that visualization of such approaches, even in early phases, greatly helps in convincing. In addition, a client generally has valuable knowledge. Clear visualizations helped in emerging this knowledge, providing valuable input throughout the process.