Design Process

Having a sister working as an occupational therapist, stories about her kids in clinic are common topics on our dinning table. In my final project in CIID, I decided to throw myself in the area of Autism, thinking if some interesting ideas could be sparked right after my studies in Computer Science and Interaction Design. 



After decided the user group, I called up my sister right away, and another friend from hight school, who’s also working as an OT. Hadn’t really had direct interaction with autistic individuals, and we only have two months for our final project… I decided to use all ways possible to make contact. I visited few special schools for autistic children in Copenhagen, an institution for autistic adults, also emailed few designer friends whoever had projects in related topics. I also went to the technical university in Copenhagen to talk to students majoring in Occupational Therapy.

The online research was in an even broader range (although not as broad as the autistic spectrum). Besides surfing through websites and reading researches about Autism, I watched Rain Man and Temple Gradin. And then end up reading Naoki Higashida's The Reason I jump, and finally had a chance to "communicate" with the user from the 1st person's point of view.

One evening I sat there on the 1st floor of CIID, transcripting word by word from the audio file I recorded with the Sony recorder I borrowed from Takeshi, and it started to become really interesting when I could summarised the following insight slides, and I was almost sure there will be am absolutly intersting synergy between what they could be good at – technology and what they could need help with – interaction.

Design Challenge

How might we design an interactive tool for kids with Autism to learn the world in their own way?

When kids with autism or sensory integration problem start learning handwriting, often they either hold the pen too tight, worn out their muscles, slowed down their writing speed, hence beat their confidence on handwriting; or too loose, then they couldn't fix the pen in their hands. It is not easy for teachers to communicate the idea of using the right amount of strength to hold the pen. Some children with autism find it hard to understand the suitable amount of strength they need to apply on everyday objects.

Ideation
Griphint was born on a paper after few rounds of brainstorming in CIID. One of the special schools I went to in Copenhagen give each kids an iPad for learning. In the beginning Griphint is an interactive pen + iPad set that visualises pen holding pressure on an iPad handwriting learning game. Lots of app prototypes were also made at this stage.
User Testing & Prototype Iterations

I was lucky to have Elvira and her family. Elvira was nine when I met her, she was raised in a lovely Danish family with her parents and an older sister. She was diagnosed with Autism along with mild sensory disorder, and they were willing to co-create in this project! I started visiting their house three days a week in evenings when all members in the house finish their day of work or study, and gather in the living room all together. We talked about their everyday life, struggles and enjoyment. We also did some group exercise, activities, and they helped Griphint test out tons of prototypes. She even made me thanks giving cookies.

“There is actually no much change in our daily live. We are as busy as usual. We send her and her sister to the schools, we go to work, then we come back home, prepare for dinner and so on.”

Getting into Cartsen’s family levels up my understanding of what a family with autistic member needs to prepare. They have been preparing and are getting ready to the next challenge.

Design

Griphint asks the question: how might we design an interactive tool for kids with Autism to learn the world in their own way? I think it is important to learn them how to learn the world. I chose the context of pen holding as the example of showing how design can step in. By visualizing the gradation of force from their fingertips, hinting how much strength they are applying to the pen body and, in the future, other everyday objects.

Griphint is designed as an interactive pen that visualises this strength with which the child is holding objects like the pen while learning to write. The pressure applied is converted into tactile feedback through an embedded pressure sensor which in turn controls the brightness of the LED lights indicating the force applied. Griphint provides teachers an obvious reference to guide their students, and it also provides the kids to start the journey of writing in a playful way.

Follow Up

Griphint grew from a project to a start-up incubated in CIID Nest 2014. Together with Priyanka Kodikal, Griphint interatived again and repositioned the product from an interactive pen to a pen grip that can suit most pencils kids in age 8 to 10 use to learn handwriting. Mette Jessen helped us with a professional eye as a Specialist in this field and joined the team to participate Creative Business Cup in Copenhagen. In the same year, Griphint was named as one of the top five startups in Creative Business Cup. The Nest is a design driven entrepreneurship platform. It has enabled us as designers to learn and use existing business models to then innovate around current existing systems by always putting people first.

After flying off from CIID Nest, Griphint has been exposed to international partners across Denmark, Hong Kong, India, Japan and Taiwan. We are currently searching for investment to the next level.