Design Process

Stared from a two-weeks course of generative design in CIID, Ritika and I teamed up with the same interest of utilising gps more than just navigation. The course was mentored by Joshua, whose family has a history of Alzheimer’s. We thought it worth challenging ourselves targeting on people with Alzheimer’s, and see how gps could help.

As CIID’s discipline writes “Build, test, repeat!” we started from building right away. Initial prototypes were built around issues such as wayfinding and reminder based systems. We built an iPad app mockup that tracks the path user walks through when exploring his or her neighbourhood, not only with gps data but also images taken on the way, to reinforce remembering the way back home.


Insighting

With testing we realized that the core was not just managing daily activities but actually feeling confident and secure about the present. They were very much like other people of their age, full of life and a treasure chest of experiences. However, the disease was gradually taking away this effervescence from them, making them feel weak and unsure.

After more in-depth research and fieldwork, we found out that often it is not just the person affected by Alzheimer’s who feels lost and lonely but also their family. During our research, we identified that caregivers and family members feel the disease is taking away their loved one and slowly creating a void due to which they start to feel more distant. We thereby hope this project could push power back into the hands of both the patient and the family members to enjoy each moment when they are together or apart.

Prototyping

We then built another prototype having both physical and digital platform where the entire family can record and share their stories. The stories were saved as audio files and pictures based on GPS locations. The users were very encouraged and motivated to go and explore the neighbourhood and revisit stories created with the loving families. We also built a website afterwards considering the modern structure of families could have members living at different locations in the world.

Design

Our challenge was to find out: How might we facilitate patients and their families to support each other by sharing experiences together and also when they are apart?

During testing session with users, we found out the digital platform explores the sense of being accompanied with loved ones, the physical device at home is a tangible conversation starter that enables playful interaction to aid as reminders even when the patient is alone. The digital platforms used are built upon existing comfort levels keeping only basic intuitive functions. Personalized sound feedback when hearing stories plays a crucial role for patients to help relate to a place and feel more independent. The map used was a customized map that lays stress on the character of a place rather than actual distance or scale. The system records GPS coordinates and maps corresponding coordinates on the physical device. A small, lightweight, portable object containing an RFID reader reads this data every time the device syncs itself. The physical device has lights below the map that illuminate to indicate locations where stories are stored.

Memory Maps secures a more optimistic future by strengthening their family ties and shared experiences. Revisiting memories over time provides a notion of ease and comfort when at that location and a sense of contentment and curiosity when conversing about it. There is a certain joy to embrace life as it is and Memory Maps facilitates that for everyone in contact with the disease. It helps patients stay mentally active throughout the recording and reminiscing process, thereby assisting a more self-reliant and independent life. It provides family members with a platform to share past experiences with them that spark conversations and hence feel more able and connected. Finally, it invites the patients and their loved ones to participate in each others memories, think about the present and enjoy that fleeting moment for everything that it has to offer.

Our goal was not to bring back what’s gone but to find out what is still there and nourish and cherish that. Professional caregivers found this to be the core value of the concept because it strengthened the outlook that is desired to deal with such a daunting disease.

Follow Up
  • Memory Map was exposed in the yearly event Bits and Beers in Copenhagen, in 2013.
  • Memory Map was shortlisted on IXDA Awards 2014.
  • I was invited to share the design process of Memory Map in NCCU, Taiwan!
  • Memory Map won the third place from Stanford Center on Longevity's Student Challenge 2014.
  • Memory Map was cited in Phillip Mills' article: Design Dementia Friendly Spaces in Copenhagen.
  • Memory Map was selected to be one of the featured projects on CIID's home page!