Seth McFarland, Stanley Liu, Andrew Kim
John Wilcox, Josh Stroud
Increase elderly patients’ mobility using robotic partners.
This project studies the potential uses of next-generation cooperative robots in home healthcare with an emphasis on the elderly market. We partnered with the NASA Ames Research Center,
Berkeley Institute of Design, and Ashby Village (AV), a senior village community, to explore this space.
Needs identified by interviews are addressed in two prototypes. We introduce the Tensegrity Chair Lift,
a product which targets a common problem for senior citizens. We discuss the business case and social,
economic, and environmental concerns for the proposed product.
Customer and User Needs
USER AND EXPERT INTERVIEWS (APPENDIX A)
User interviews included Chris Fin, a 42-year old quadriplegic; Joan, a 73-year old with Stage-4
cancer at Ashby Village; Audrey, a UC Berkeley student with a specific strain of anemia; Kie, a
quadriplegic UC Berkeley student; and Shirley, a widow living at home. We focused on identifying their
specific needs and issues in the medical products they currently used.
Expert interviews gave us the market stakeholders’ perspective on current products and needs
that need to be fulfilled in the current market. These interviews included an architect, an interior
designer, and a volunteer from the Ashby Village senior community. We worked closely with the staff
at AV to interview members of their network of seniors and volunteers. We also bounced ideas off our
mentor in the Berkeley Institute of Design, and visited the NASA Ames Research Center to learn more
about the Tensegrity robotics technology. Finally, we interviewed other stakeholders, including a
doctor, the director of the Disabled Students Program at Cal, and several staff at a medical supply
ANALYSIS: OBSERVATIONS, INSIGHT, AND FEEDBACK
The team put together an initial draft of our user needs, gathered from 12 interviews with both
senior citizens, people with disabilities, and experts in design and architecture. Upon feedback from a
Stanford professor, however, we realized that our needs were too broad. We decided instead to focus
on two specific needs and a specific user group, the elderly, in our prototyping process.
From analysis of our interviews, we ultimately chose Independence and Social Connection as the
most important needs. Both needs showed up again and again in both interviews and market research
of elderly users. We ultimately chose Independence as our top need. Mobility and Social Connection
were delegated to primary needs, one level down in our hierarchy. For a more in depth analysis and
hierarchy of user, refer to Appendix B. We made these decisions late in the semester, so our more broad
5 needs guided us through the concept generation and selection phases.
Concept Generation (Appendix C)
We used an iterative design process to generate concepts which addressed our user needs
through two rounds of ideation and refinement. Each cycle consisted of an initial brainstorm, concept
voting, concept consolidation, and user feedback.
The team split potential users of Tensegrity applications to home healthcare two user groups:
people with physical disabilities and elderly citizens. Both of these user groups wanted more
independence and safety while allowing for customization to their specific needs and disabilities. With
our first brainstorm, we tried to target both groups.
INITIAL BRAINSTORM (CONCEPT GENERATION)
In our initial brainstorm, we developed over 50 concepts which addressed many of our broad user
needs. A sampling of our initial concepts:
Seeing eye vest
Device in bed
Social buddy robot
Although we did not use of all of these concepts, they drove our second round of ideation. We
consolidated these concepts into broad themes of form and function, which served as jumping off
points for our second concept generation brainstorm.
REFINED BRAINSTORM (CONCEPT GENERATION)
In our second series of brainstorms, we generated concepts specifically for elderly home
healthcare, targeting our needs at the time. We generated another 50 concepts, bringing our total to
100 concepts. We then voted for our favorite concepts, and compiled a list of our top 12 concepts:
11. Customizable Ball
12. Back Brace
CONCEPT SCREENING MATRIX (APPENDIX D)
The team used a selection matrix to compare various tensegrity concept categories. As a
benchmark, we used the industry standard for care: a hired caregiver. We screened based on our core
user needs at the time, as well as alignment with team goals and technical feasibility. The results of this
screening process led us to focus on several areas for concept scoring. The concepts which met the
most success met at least four of our five core needs at the time, as well as cost-effectiveness and
CONCEPT SCORING (APPENDIX E)
We used a concept scoring matrix (Appendix E) to decide on concepts to prototype. We scored
the top concepts based on the same criteria from our screening matrix, and weighted the criteria based
on importance. We then assigned numerical scores to each concept in each category. From this scoring
matrix, the “Social Ball” and “Chair Assist” concepts were clear winners, and continued to the prototype
phase. Both offered clear advantages in prototype viability, ease of use, and cost. We also prototyped
the third-highest scoring concept, the “Assistive Visor,” for feedback at the Midterm Tradeshow.
Prototyping, Final Product, and User Feedback
EXOSKELETON TENSEGRITY PROTOTYPE (APPENDIX F)
To better understand Tensegrity, we rapid prototyped the “Exoskeleton Tensegrity” concept.
We used a 3D printer to manufacture an ABS plastic tensegrity finger. This prototype helped us
understand how difficult it is to construct a balanced tensegrity structure. However, the Tensegrity
Exoskeleton didn’t directly fit with our user needs, so we scrapped it.
TENSEGRITY SOCIAL BALL (APPENDIX G)
A second prototype we developed was the “Tensegrity Social Ball” (video). The ball is selfactuated and interacts with users in the home. The ball would provide timely medication reminders and
monitor their health while providing a friendly conversation. We wanted to explore the soft and
interactive nature of Tensegrity technology, but, seniors had a difficult
time understanding the product in interviews. They didn’t express
much interest once they seemed to understand the concept. Seniors
were not sold on the idea of social interactions with a robot.
Ultimately, we decided to focus on our final prototype and product:
the Tensegrity Chair Lift.
TENSEGRITY CHAIR LIFT (APPENDIX H)
Our final product is the Tensegrity Chair Lift. We decided to
choose the Tensegrity Chair Lift (Fig 1) as our final product because of
both positive feedback from user interviews and its viability as a future
product. Our first “feels-like” version of the prototype demonstrated
the lifting mechanism by hinging two pieces of plywood together and
attaching rope on the back of the top plywood piece to lift the seat.
We further developed the tensegrity chair prototype by
covering it with fabric. This addition improved the aesthetics, enabling
users to interact with the chair without being distracted by its nontensegrity design. We developed a “looks-like” prototype in CAD,
which we included in Appendix H.
FIGURE 1: INTRODUCING THE TENSEGRITY
PROTOTYPE USER FEEDBACK (SEE PROTOTYPE APPENDICES F-H)
After developing our initial product prototypes, we met with
seniors and experts to demonstrate our ideas and receive feedback.
Shirley, an elderly woman, was very interested in the potential of new technology to help
seniors sit and stand up from their chairs, in the form of our Tensegrity Chair Lift. She
immediately thought of a friend who would use the product, but called it ugly and an eyesore.
Joan, another elderly woman living at home, thought the Tensegrity Chair Lift could be very
useful if it was light enough to be carried around and used on chairs and benches when seniors
are out of their house (for example: stadiums, parks, concerts).
Joan’s husband, who has severe dementia, was injured because he didn’t realize he had
activated the motorized lifting chair in which he was sitting. End result: he fell, and they
disconnected the motor immediately.
Cheryl, an architect for Ashby Village, disliked our social ball prototype, because she couldn’t
understand what problem it solved. She also mentioned the ball was a major tripping hazard for
someone with poor vision and reflexes.
Economic Analysis & Business Plan (Appendix I)
Price of comparable items:
Wheelchair $250 and up. 
UpLift Seats $100 and up. 
Caregiver $18 and up per hour. 
$26,000 per year for service four hours per day.
US nursing home $76,680 per year. 
In 2008 there were 38,690,169 seniors in the US, which is 12.7% of the population  (Fig 2).
Assuming 20% of the elderly would have a use for our product, maximum market size is approximately
7.5 million users. If we advertise to potential customers through AARP, and other senior organizations,
which have a combined membership approaching 38 million, we estimate we could reach 50% of our
potential user base. Of the customers who see advertising, 3% are estimated to purchase the product
within a 3-year time span. This gives us about 100,000 units sold over three years. Annualized, the sales
are $10 million a year if the unit is priced at $300, strong sales for a small company. With an
approximate manufacture cost of $85 per unit, expenditures would be $2.8 million annually on
hardware. The company could have 60 employees at an average overhead of $80,000 per employee per
year, and still turn $2.4 million in profits annually. Although these numbers are very optimistic, they
showcase the large market and potential profit margins in selling to American senior citizens.
FIGURE 2: PROJECTED US
ELDERLY POPULATION FOR
NEXT 50 YEARS
Triple Bottom Line Analysis (Appendix I)
Our triple bottom line addresses our users and their needs, the environment, and provides us with a
sustainable business model. Check out the summary diagram below:
Lessons Learned (Appendix J)
Our challenges this semester are best summed up by this quote from playwright John
Galsworthy: “Idealism increases in direct proportion to one's distance from the problem.” As we got
closer to the problem through user interviews, we realized the scale and difficulty of the elderly
healthcare issue facing the US. Our concepts subsequently became less abstract and idealistic, and
more concrete. We were surprised at how well Ashby Village was addressing this problem, and at the
strengths of a community over a product or service.
We also learned about the need to “dive deep.” We continually had a problem with the initial
broad and abstract specifications of our project, and consequently had trouble creating concrete needs
and concepts. As we received feedback about this issue, we adjusted by focusing on specific needs,
problems, and concept areas. Our project was a “solution in search of a problem.”
The team had a lot of trouble understanding what exactly Tensegrity was, and where it was
useful. Only when we visited the NASA Ames Research Center, and met with the Tensegrity Robotics
researchers there, did we began to understand the strengths of Tensegrity robots. Unfortunately, this
happened in week 6 of the semester. The lesson here was to thoroughly research and understand a new
technology before you try to brainstorm concepts for it.
● This project was difficult to communicate, both as we struggled to understand the technology
and explain it to users. The NASA team needs to come up with clear and compelling prototypes
to successfully communicate the concept, and explore possible “experience demonstrations.”
Through our research, we became convinced that Tensegrity robotics have the potential to
make a powerful impact in improving quality of life for elderly users in the home.
 CIA World Factbook
Appendix A: User and Expert Interviews
Interview with a UC Berkeley Bio-Engineering Major
About the Interviewee:
UC Berkeley Bio-Engineering (4th-Year Undergraduate)
Minoring in Mechanical Engineering
Does research on mechanics of hip and shoulder implants with Professor Lisa Pruitt, UC Berkeley
Interned with surgeon for one summer and observed many surgeries
Lessons Learned from Interview:
Interview the expert in context. (as described in the video) An interview about a hospital is
much harder in the person’s house than at the hospital where they might have been reminded of
important product functionalities necessary in their job.
Don’t take notes while interviewing. Instead record the interview and take notes soon afterwards
when listening to the tape recording. This will allow the conversation to flow more naturally.
Have far more prepared questions than necessary, but don’t feel compelled to use them all.
By taking more questions than necessary into the interview the interviewer can allow the
conversation to take any direction it needs to, instead of forcing the expert to answer questions
that might be less important than other (possibly unexpected) things the expert wants to discuss.
Give the subject of the interview time to prepare. By giving the interview subject a description
of the project in advance, they might have thoughts prepared for the interviewer. Also, this means
when they are going about their job for the few days prior to the interview they are thinking about
their job in context of what you are going to ask.
Quickly and easily calibrated or tested to confirm safe operation before use
Respond to oral commands
The robot is able to be sterilized
Lost Cost system
Easily repaired or reused
Materials - hypo-allergenic, heat-resistant for autoclave,
Small size - hospitals have limited space
Battery powered so there are no cords to trip over
Uniform treatment across multiple patients
Keeps records of treatments for each patient
Has multiple levels of redundancy for safety
Can confirm the identity of the patient to ensure the proper person is treated
What are the potential applications of robotics technology?
Object retrieval, in small spaces - say under a bed. A patient may drop something and the robot might
retrieve it from under the bed. A tensegrity robot might roll1 to move under small spaces like under the
bed in this example. (Interviewee cites NASA example)
Another possible use: Robot has a timer and gives the proper doses of medication at the proper time.
Walk me through the procedure to use a robot in an operating room.
1. The robot would have to be prepared or sterilized.
2. The nurse would have to test the robot was functional and operating safely before the patient or
3. The robot would respond to doctor’s voice commands
4. The doctor tells the robot which surgery is being performed and what instruments are in use
5. The robot would be put through an autoclave when the procedure is finished
Other important details:
-The robot must be battery powered so there are no cords to trip over.
- The robot must respond to oral commands because the surgons hand
- The entire robot must be able to fit into the autoclave for sanitation.
- Doctors want a robotic scrub nurse who can keep track of his/her tools and hand him/her the proper
instrument at the right time.
What do you like about existing products?
- Intiutive Surgical’s Da Vinci Robot allows for very small controlled movements can be made using
robotics in surgery. This robot goes inside small spaces inside the human body where a surgeon’s hand
would not fit.
- Robotics systems in healthcare allows for more uniform treatment across multiple patients. This allows
for better treatment of all patients. Also, medical studies that use robotics have better control groups and
fewer variables in care that might unintentionally affect results.
What are the disadvantages of current robotics in medicine?
-Most robotics products are very large and only used in the operating room. The technology has
applications outside the operating room, but it isn’t being developed further.
What issues do you consider when purchasing a robot for healthcare use?
- Can it be sterilized?
- Materials - allergies, heat-resistant materials,
- Size - hospitals have limited space
Rebecca suffers from Scoliosis Pre-med, 2nd year student
“doctors didn’t care about my pain”
Product should be empathetic
“nurses were late with my medication”
Product must be able to complete time sensitive
“I cannot sit or stand for long periods, many chairs
are to uncomfortable”
Product must protect the patients weakened
“I plan my day around seating and walking
Product must provide user with equipment to
“I spent all day in the hospital bed watching TV”
Product must provide companionship
“my mother had to take care of me 24-7
Product must reduce the caretakers workload
“specialists changed and did not know what the
previous specialist had done”
Product must interface with and improve
communication between all users rather than add
“hospital checked up four times after surgery”
Product provides better monitoring that is remote
Rebecca was my first interview for this project. I feel like although our interview had a decent
flow, if I could do it over I would have focused in more on some of the specific questions. Especially now
that we have focused on specific project goals I would like to interview her again and ask her more
about each concept in specific. Rebecca’s interview was difficult to get as much out of because her
greatest problem was the pain. She had some restrictions on her mobility, but other than that her
problem was essentially pain.
Having Josh know her enabled him to ask more specific questions after I had steered the
conversation in a specific direction but run out of questions. If Josh had led the interview, his
knowledge of her would have steered the conversation but instead it added more depth.
Partial Transcript of notes taken while doing the interview:
Q: What do you on a typical day?
Spends most of her time working -> Chemistry, physics
On weekends, I work, do something with her boyfriend or her close group of friends.
Wake up, shower, and take my meds. Has a handicapped parking permit and drives to class.
Q: Do you feel like any part of your routine is different than normal?
“I’m in constant pain, all the time.” Her life has been very altered by her crippling back pain. My routine
is different from everyone else.
Q: If you could have something to help you out, independent of cost or feasibility, what would you
want to be improved in your life. What would you do to make it better?
On a typical weekday morning, I don’t think there’s any outside influence that could really impact how I
feel. The majority of my issues can’t be helped at that point.
Q: What about in the rest of your days, is there anything you’d change? I know you spend most of
the day on campus, walking and standing is really tough right?
The only thing I can do indefinitely is lie down.
Q: Do you alternate between sitting and standing?
I try not to stand too long, I walk around campus but I don’t stand for an hour. Any time I go to the
library, I have to use a comfortable chair, so I plan my schedule around that. When I go home, I don’t sit
at a table; I lie in bed or stand up.
Q: You plan to have better places to sit on campus. What else do you have to plan around in your
That’s a big one: what seating I have access to, where I’m going. In social situations, it’s even worse. It’s
more minor. When you’re in a position like mine, sitting in an uncomfortable chair for an hour may not
be the worst thing, but when you put that in combination with carrying a bag, backpack, it’s hard.
I have huge problem set books which are the only thing I can carry, I can drive them but it’s difficult and
an inconvenience, especially when I have to carry my computer as well. When I can, I plan my day
around dropping stuff off at my car.
In terms of school, it’s hard for me to sit down an extended period of time and take notes, because of
my back problems. So having a computer helps with that, I don’t have to that.
Q: You’ve gone through a couple surgeries. Have you had major surgery?
I have scoliosis, which we found when I was 8 years old. I wore braces for it, and when I was a senior in
high school, I had a spinal fusion surgery (May 2011). They cut open an incision 14 inches long in my
back; they placed rods on either sides of the curve, and put screws in my vertebrae to hold the curve of
my spine in place. The recovery was quite extensive; the surgery was 8 hours long
Q: What was your first memory?
My first memory was opening my eyes in the hospital room I was going to be next 8 days. I woke up in
excruciating pain -> screaming in pain. “Begging for pain killers.” I spent two months in a hospital bed in
my house, slowing gaining my mobility and freedom. I spent the whole summer recovering. She was 18
Q: What was care like at home?
Especially in the first couple weeks, constant care. I couldn’t have been left alone. Her mom needed to
take complete care of her; we didn’t want to hire a nurse who wouldn’t have done a good job. I couldn’t
shower by myself; I couldn’t dress myself or even get out of bed. Insane amounts of medications to
manage, prescriptions. Having someone there for me was incredibly lucky (my mom).
Q: How was having your mom take care of you?
My mom didn’t leave the house for three weeks. When she left, she left me with someone else.
Q: What interactions did you have with hospital staff after returning home?
A mix of nurses and specialists came to visit the house, to make sure she was doing the right exercises,
dress the wound, and recovering.
Q: Did the hospital track your recovery?
No updates, really. Obviously I followed up with my symptoms, and the hospital called for an
assessment of the quality of your stay.
Q: What other surgeries have you had?
I had four other surgeries, injections into my back, and a heart surgery. I’m having another major
surgery this summer.
Q: What were the surgeries like?
Bad anesthesia experience with heart surgery, I woke up in the surgery because they did the anesthesia
wrong. That was really scary, traumatic. I was very much affected by that procedure.
Q: What was a day like two weeks after the surgery?
Wake up at 9. My temperature was off, I would be really cool. I would let me mom know that I’m up; get
in the hospital bed with the help of my men. Take all my meds, because I would be in intense pain, a
cocktail of meds. She would make me breakfast. I would watch TV all day long, which was all I could do.
I would very, very slowly walk around the cul-de-sac, and that would be my exercise for the day. I would
tell her when I needed to go to the bathroom, and she would get me out of the bed. And then 930-10, I
would go back to bed; she would help me go up the stairs very slowly.
Q: What sort of emotional state were you in?
Depends, sometimes all you can think about the pain. Your life is marked, day by day, by pain, pills,
hospital bed, TV show; the next TV show would break up your day. Markers of my day, the next TV
show. When my ex-boyfriend came home, that would be a huge marker, when he came to visit. Or
when family would spend time with you, which was huge. Least amount of pain was a marker.
Q: So loneliness was a big issue?
Oh yes: I’m the only one in the hospital bed, an invalid.
Q: Another surgery this summer, what do you wish could be different or better? Ideally.
In the hospital and the home, it was so much of a burden on my mother to do everything for me. I
would want to lift that burden off of her, which would be very meaningful. Because she could be there
for me, because she was doing so much for me, she was emotionally and physically drained. That would
be meaningful. Stuff like that.
Getting food, or putting a pillow under my knees, because I needed that. Giving me the right medicine
the first week, or even in the hospital. There was a problem: I had to get the correct doses on the
correct time, every time.
There was such an issue of not getting adequate medication on time, even if the nurse was coming in
and giving me a pill. It didn’t happen, nurses were switching shifts. You literally had to hunt the nurse
Q: Did you have other frustrations?
The insensitivity of doctors. I had to get the dressing of my back. They put adhesive all over my back
and then the doctor came in, and without any concern for my pain, every time he touched my back I
was in a spasm of pain. He turned me over and ripped it off. I screamed out loud. Only some doctors,
some nurses. Everyone was very busy, things don’t get done on time, and things get lost in translation.
If you need to use the bathroom, they won’t be there.
There’s not good communication, when you see the physical therapist, what they did one day, the next
guy didn’t know about.
You’re in a different world from your family, you in a hospital bed and everyone is normal.
Chris Finn’s Home Healthcare Interview Writeup
Introduction and Reflections
Chris Finn is a quadriplegic and the coach of the USA National Power Soccer Team, which he has led to
consecutive world championships. Power soccer is a
competitive team sport for people with disabilities who use
powered wheelchairs to play a specially-designed variant of
“Chris Finn caught the soccer
soccer, and continues to be a very important part of Chris’
bug at an early age. Growing up
We met Chris through a contact at the Ed Roberts Campus,
a leading national institution dedicated to disability rights
and universal access. Chris has never let his disability hold
him back, instead describing it “more like a new challenge, I
have to work out and do things differently.” He was only
one year older than me, a senior in college, when he
suffered a freak accident which left me permanently
Two of the major themes from our hour-long interview with
him were mobility, and independence. Primary needs were
mobility, reliability/trust, independence, empathy, and 24hour care.
Independently taking care of himself was one important
need. Another secondary need was to remove some of the
burden from his caregivers and family, important to him to
that he could do some stuff on his own. Whether he wanted
to cook his own meals, get into the shower by himself, or
drive himself to a meeting, he often was unable to do this,
and this inability frustrated him.
in Wisconsin, Chris spent most
of his childhood and high school
years participating and playing
at a competitive level. But a
freak accident at 21, which left
him a quadriplegic, ended what
he thought would be any chance
to continue competing at the
sport he loved. With little
designs left in athletics, Chris
finished school and began
looking for a career. Little did he
know his life would come full
“I can’t get into the shower on my own, but I
hate having a caregiver help me, it’s
Product provides or enhances dignity to the
“I’m always traveling and I can’t carry 150lbs of
equipment with me.”
Product is lightweight and easy to transport.
“I wish I could use my microwave to make my
own dinner, and take some of the burden off
Product helps user with everyday actions.
“The height of counters, tables, and other
furniture is never where I need them to be.”
Product needs to compensate for poorly
targeted design choices of home use spaces.
“Cooking and other housework is always a
problem for me, since everything is difficult to
Product allows user to perform chores and daily
“My dad fed me in the hospital, he pretended
the fork was a bumblebee and buzzed it into
my mouth. When I came off my ventilator, the
first thing I told him was “Dad, if you do that
again I’ll kill you!” (jokingly).
Product allows user to retain dignity.
“I found it really difficult to go from being an
invincible 20-year-old to losing all my
independence and mobility.”
Product provides a feeling of independence to
“My attendants spend a lot of time to help me
stretch my muscles.”
Product assists existing caregivers.
“If my attendants were to abandon me or not
show up, I would be screwed!”
“Sometimes I get lonely since I’m not as
mobile, you can get people to come to you, but
you have to make the effort.”
Product does not break down, and provides a
sense of reliability.
Product eases communication with outside
world, and reduces outside loneliness.
CHRIS FIN INTERVIEW NOTES
-very heavy, has to be broken into 3 parts, 150lbs
-Helps him get in and out of bed
Chris wants something lighter that could collapse like a stroller, mobile, easier to use, still able to wheel
around. Possible solution could be a lighter weight metal or polymer or some other design all together.
A shower chair that you could wheel into the shower if there is only a tub in the hotel
Attach a bracket and slide a chair over to sit in the shower
And this was collapsible into a suitcase size
THINGS TO LOOK AT
Insurance (medicare medicad)
Department of vehicle that help to pay for things
He wants to be able to warm things up in the microwave himself and has his own design for this
purpose where he is able to reach into the microwave and take the “basket”
To have something hold a plate with a handle 6in high
-Needs to not burn his hand when picking up
He isn’t really capable of operating a stove so it is important to have a way to cook food
4th and 5th vertebrae injury from freak accident after following in bathroom 4th year in college ROTC 20
Got dizzy and fainted after falling
-What’s next? What to do now? With complete lifestyle change
-Thinking you’re invincible partying sports and now you can’t move when mobility used to be
-However he can still think I sometimes thinks he takes his current state for granted
He used to drive a van with modifications till it broke
-First few days he didn’t realize the extent of his injuries and then it finally hits him and say well that
sucks and oh shit
-It was more like a new challenge and has to work out and do things differently and goes out ot see how
much he can do
-Went form what can I do? Not what can’t I do
-At firs the couldn’t move his arms at all and there was a lot of therapy the first 6 months and learning
to sit up
TYPICAL DAY WALKTHROUGH
-Personal care attendant come in wash up medication, bathroom, stretching, get dressed, getting out
of bed with transfer device
-Get in chair, have something to eat (breakfast), brush my teeth, shaving set his computer up with voice
activation to type, track ball instead of a mouse on computer,
-Starting a business for doing motivational speaking
-Doing a lot of writing to sell those
-Develop a personal life coaching program
FUSTRATIONS IN DAILY ROUTINE
-When voice activation says the wrong words, And it takes so long to correct it
-Transportation is really expensive to fix with the modified vehicles. Wants to drive.
-The height of things like counters and tables. Be able to get under things. Can’t fit under tables since
he -is kind of a taller guy. Do things like cook and get up to the sink.
-Access to things in general. Setting up things in the apartment.
-Examples: drawers rolled out smoother, so door system for the cupboards roll out to access, opening
up the blinds because he need someone to twist the blinds, locking and opening windows, automatic
door opener (he already has), being able to see into a mirror better
RELATIONSHIPS WITH ATTENDANTS
-It’s a group of people, one person 5 days in the morning, and other 2 days
-Other that come throughout the day for other things like food, and other general things
-Hired and paid by Supportive Services
-Person comes in and estimates how much you need(help) and gives you a certain number of hours to
fulfill your needs
-Stretching, dressing, bathing, bathroom, personal hygiene, cooking meal, cleaning: dusting
vacuuming, shopping (sometimes), laundry, basic functions to live and get by
-With the program they are supposed to help him with needs in the home, so they can’t drive him
around or really help him with anything outside the house
Do you like having attendants?
Yea well they are kind of a necessity. He looks to find people that he would get along with but also
would be able to fulfill his needs, their personality since you spend 5-6 hours a day with this person. You
kind of want to get along with them. You want to find someone that will stay with you a while so things
are more streamlined and effective. An effective working relationship.
MORE PROBLEMS IN ROUTINE
-Access his bags by himself in the sides and whatnot
-A lot of things rely on trust, most people are willing to help but things like letting other people pay for
stuff for him with his wallet are sometimes a problem.
-He goes through life trying not to paranoid because that is no way to live life.
-Lesson: Don’t put all your cash in your wallet.
-Getting around town, he wears a chest strap. He isn’t capable of putting it on himself since his balance
is not that great, but if he hits a bump on the sidewalk, without out it he could potentially fall down and
-Learned the hard way to wear chest strap. He used to see other people use them and thought it was
stupid till he fell himself.
-Locks his chair down on the bus and BART.
-Story: Was on the bus, when it stopped suddenly and he stood up briefly and then feel face first on the
aisle and ended up with tread marks on the face
-How can I eat by myself? He sticks a fork in his wristband and brings the fork to his mouth.
-This accomplishment meant more independence, and at first he had to get fed
-Story: His dad fed him the first time in the hospital with the bumblebee and he couldn’t speak at the
time since he was on a ventilator, lol and afterwards told his dad if you ever do that again, I will never
talk to you again
-To his parents he became like a kid again
-Mom was like I wish it was me instead of you, you have this whole life ahead of you
-Dad was upset, but what can you do, can’t do anything now
-Family still treats him the same with shit talking, but he just needs more help from them
-Independence is always important, especially In college and was brutal to lose all independence
WHAT ELSE IS IMPORTANT
-RELATIONSHIPS with girlfriends and friends and family, life is all about relationships
-Everything is better with better relationships
-One thing he really enjoys a lot is service, giving back to the country
-Doing a lot through coaching power soccer and translating that to life
-A lot of people with disabilities don’t realize all of the things they are capable of doing
-Try to give them confidence from the court to life
You can’t do that and you can’t do that, and they get the cant mindset and sit in front of the TV
-This isn’t true, yea you can, You just have to learn how. Strategy from court to life
-Works with 8-10 years old to 60 years old with all different type of disabilities with boys girls men
-He used to play, but then he became coach after the previous coach retired
-Sport transferred to different style
-2 time power soccer champion coach
-Could potentially play at that level but only with a lot of work
Wrist splints-simple bar through straps with cuff that goes through hand that can hold a pen
Driving joystick mechanism, lift to get in van
Table from ikea that has legs to extend to different lengths
Rehab: took an old bedside table that he could raise and lower to different heights for personal care
attendant or for him: adjustable
Ramp to get in door: 6in ramp
Racer switches for light switches to make it easier
Patio door, he put a handle with a strap to patio door
Unlocks door with a chopstick
Pill box, push a button on the side and pull out, to put in bag so it doesn’t spill but it’s harder to open
Lap tray, tray with a cushion underneath (handiest ever)
Trackball on computer
Headset for the phone. Phone on the chest strap,
When thinking of a robot , he thinks of irobot, some autonomous robot that is capable of doing manual
work R2d2 might not be able to do a whole lot for him, incapable of stretching his legs, get him out of
bed. Like getting the pillbox out of bag and opening it requires fine motor skills.
Some type of machine to stretch his legs
Stretching is exercise for him
Another device he used to use , needed 1-2 people that helped me to stand, to help with the blood flow
and bone density
Anything with injury, first thing to do is start walking. Have the body be able to sit upright and be dizzy
and acclimated and it’s this movement that really keeps the body healthy
Chinese medicine to keep the body moving, move the arms and bend the knees while just waiting
Reliability is key, if you can’t get in and out of bed you’re screwed, can’t go anywhere
I can eat in bed, but he still needs someone to feed me, you need someone there
Lonely without company with attendants
Get people to come to you, but you have to make the effort
ROBOTS ARE REALLY INCAPABLE OF FINE MOTOR MOVEMENTS RIGHT NOW
Dr. Park Interview (Medical Doctor)
“For those who have chronic medical needs but
don’t need hospitals and IV antibiotics”
Product provides chronic medical need support
“Hospitals are very expensive”
Product is cheap and easily accessible
“ babies… can’t breathe on their own. They have
to be hooked up to a machine with regular visits
Product is reliable and is fully functioning 24/7
“…foot is amputated because they suffer an
infection after stepping on something. A robot
that replaces their foot or even help them adjust
to their new lifestyle can be something that can
Product helps patient adjust to new lifestyle
“a robot that figures out when to deliver the
medication will be extremely beneficial to the
Product records schedule or blood level to
determine when to supply medication
“I would like to know whether my patient has
taken his/her pill three times a day like I instructed
them to do, or whether they did their physical
Product provides feedback to doctor or hospital
“The nose, mouth, and urinary areas are
sometimes difficult to reach and see”
Product is able to see all areas of the patient’s
This interview was the first interview that I did for this project. Before it began, I made a list of
questions I believed that I would go through; however, this was not the case. Based on the responses
I’ve received I began to ask questions that were not on the list. In a way, this helped improve the flow of
the interview and made the whole process more emotional and less engineered. I realized midway
through the interview to take advantage of using open ended questions and use the responses I got to
further divulge and expand the interview. Not only did this improve the flow of the interview, but I was
also able to get a better understanding of the issues and needs of medical personnel and patients.
Looking back I should have done the interview via Skype instead of on the phone. The issue with doing
an interview over the phone is the lack of emotional connection between me and Joe. I could’ve gotten
a better understanding or feeling from Joe about some of the issues he deals with. I also learned that a
one person interview is not very ideal. Having to record and conduct the interview at the same time is
really difficult. There were instances where there were long pauses in between the responses and
questions because of me recording the responses and on numerous occasions I had to have Joe repeats
some of his responses. Overall, I’m pleased with this interview. We definitely added a different
perspective on the user needs.
Interview Transcript (Note some responses are summaries of what was actually stated)
Q: What does home health care mean to you?
A: Home health care is for those who have chronic medical needs but don’t need hospitals and IV
antibiotics. Hospitals are very expensive and home health care can be a cheaper alternative to it.
Q: In pediatrics where do you find a need for home health care?
A: Well a lot of the patients I deal with don’t have critical illnesses or need constant hospital care, so let
me get back to you on that.
Q: So I’m working on finding applications where tensegrity soft robots can play a role in home health
care. In what instances would soft robots or any robot would you find helpful to you, nurses, patients, or
anyone else affiliated in the home health industry?
A: When babies are born prematurely or undergo trauma, sometimes they can’t breathe on their own.
They have to be hooked up to a machine with regular visits from nurses. Maybe the robot can provide
constant surveillance on the babies.
Q: How about outside the hospital?
A: Maybe helping out the permanently disabled. For example, people with diabetes sometimes lose
feeling at their feet. There are instances their foot is amputated because they suffer an infection after
stepping on something. A robot that replaces their foot or even help them adjust to their new lifestyle
can be something that can support them.
Q: What are some things that you see a robot providing for a user/patient?
A: I can think of three things: service, mobility assistance, and medication.
Q: Can you be more specific about service regarding medication?
A: For example, there are insulin pumps that learn when to supply insulin. Initially the user manually
supplies the insulin, but the pump will learn when to supply the medication automatically. Something
similar but with other diseases, such as HIV, can potentially help a patient. There are also drugs that
that are most effective at certain blood levels. Having a robot that figures out when to deliver the
medication will be extremely beneficial to the patient.
Q: What about assisting you or any other medical personal?
A: Not sure. Maybe something like biofeedback. There are prostheses out there that move on based on
nerve signals. Something similar to this feature, but gives doctors information instead. For example, I
would like to know whether my patient has taken his/her pill three times a day like I instructed them to
do, or whether they did their physical therapy.
Q: What are some of the most common type of issues you see in your patients?
A: In acute care, the cold is something very common. In chronic care, diabetes is something I deal with
Q: Are there any physical challenges you encounter when treating a patient?
A: The nose, mouth, and urinary areas are sometimes difficult to reach and see. We have specialty
doctors who we will call to deal with these issues.
Q: I was just curious if there was something that a patient might go to a hospital for, but really don’t
A: Yes, for drug rehabilitation. There are legal reasons why they have to come to the hospital, but let
say someone addicted heroin is going through rehab. The hospital would supply certain dosages of
medication similar to heroin in small quantities, once a week. This is done so that the individual
addicted to heroin can slowly lose their dependency to the drug.
Meeting With Adrian in the BEST LAb
February 25th, 2013
Tensegrity structures are very good at
being in contact with things
Very robust, extremely difficult to damage
Forces are distributed
No joint is fixed
Rods of tensegrity robots are
joined by cables
Instead of amplifying forces, the
forces are deamplified thus
requiring less power
Little movement at the cables will
have a large effect on the
displacements of the rods
All forces are axial
Actuators changes cable lengths only
10% change in cable lengths can
have a significant effect on the rod
Collapsible – can have the ability to vary in
size. Can have size varying from the size
of a backpack to a small room
Robust – tensegrity like structure allows
the robot to withstand sudden
introduction of forces
Things to consider:
What do we want to sense?
What will it look like?
Will it be able to communicate?
Is it going to replace the human
element, the caregiver?
When Adrian stated that tensegrity structure are
very good at being in contact with things, he
meant that due to its soft nature, tensegrity
structures can interact with anything object
without damaging them.
Tensegrity soft structures are inherently robust.
Due to the elastic nature of the cables and the way
the forces are distributed along the rods and
cables, tensegrity robots can withstand
considerable amount of sudden applied force.
The design of a tensegrity structure (none of the
joints are fixed and rods are joined by cables)
allows it to absorb a lot of impact.
The tensegrity robots are able to vary in size so
easily because very minimal changes in cable
length have a considerable effect on the rod’s
movements and the overall volume that the parts
of the robot occupy is also very small.
Things we have to consider when designing and
building a tensegrity structure is the motion of the
robot, the elements that the robot is going to
sense, the communication between the actuators
and the controller, and the manipulation of the
Adrian, a NASA scientist working on tensegrity robotics, was kind enough to visit Berkeley and
briefly explain to us what tensegrity robotics was. Because tensegrity soft robotics is a relatively new
field in robotics, we had a lot of questions about them. Some of the things we needed clarification and
understanding on were the pros of tensegrity soft robots and what distinguished this type of robotics
with conventional ones. Going into this interview, we have a lot of different ideas for potential products
in home health care, but all of our ideas seem to be easily solved by conventional robotics. What we
needed to get out of this interview was figure out some of the favorable characteristics of tensegrity
soft robotics and design a product that revolves around this information.
From this interview, we were able to get a lot of facts about tensegrity soft robotics and some
of advantages they had over conventional ones. Some of the things that we learned and can use were
that tensegrity soft robotics are very robust and can easily change size. A lot of our ideas were small
scale, but one of the ideas that grew out of this interview was potentially changing the scale of the
robot by considering a tensegrity structure that is twice the size of a human being.
Overall, we got a better understanding of tensegrity soft robotics, but we’re still somewhat
clueless as to what our product is going to be. Two things that we can focus on are potentially designing
a product that resembles a ball or snake, because these two design was something that NASA found
most success with. In general though, we still need to gather more feedback about home health care
and some of the problems surrounding it to implement some of the information we learned at the
Interview Write-up: Medical Supply Store
Johnson Medical Supply
Goals for Interview:
We wanted to look at existing products and ask the store staff what were common features patients
looked for in products.
Johnson Medical Supplies:
Wide automatically opening door and a ramp leading up to the store.
Inside a large selection of products.
Types of Products:
Canes, quad canes, foldable canes
daily living aids
bed and seating products
Walkers: (Price $200-400)
adjustable seat height and handles
12 lbs total weight
modular - parts are removable
accessories: cup holder, seat pad, tray
8'' wheels for indoor/outdoor use
Advertising terms: light, small size, ergonomic: contoured handles & brake levers
"folds flat for transportation"
"Promotes better posture"
Shower Stools and Chairs - ($ 50-150)
- "Attractive, easy to maintain"
- Strength, durability, steel
- handle extender
Power Chairs ($5000 or $550/month rental)
Power Patient Lifter ($2,500)
- "quiet, smooth operation to reduce patient anxiety"
- emergency stop
- large tire diameter
* All products also mentioned weight capacity
Johnson Medical Supply store was ironically a very difficult place for anyone with disabilities to
navigate. It was stuffed full of all sorts of products, which overflowed into the isles of the store. First, we
simply looked at the medical products they sell to get a general idea for what types of products are
currently on the market. Then we asked the store employees a little about the types of products people
We were surprised at the high cost of very simple products like shower chairs and walkers. The
very industrial appearance of many of the products was far different than products in any other store,
especially considering the price.
Paul Hippolitus, DSP Director needs of and services for disabled students
February 26, 2013
“DSP provides as much aid as possible while
ensuring the essential nature of classes is kept
Product provides aid while keeping the core
“Some students are unable to process a lecture at
full speed so we have others take notes for them
or use a tool like live scribe to help them”
Product enhances students’ ability to process
“Some students are hearing impaired and require
the use of a caption cart, which captions the
lecture with a four to five second delay”
Product helps enhance or replace missing or
damaged sensory functions.
“students have a difficult time in the chaos of a
Product assists users in complex and dynamic
“Elevators are too small for students to fit in with
Product enables students to transfer between
“The hills of Berkeley’s campus are too steep for
Product provides mobility to user.
“Students are often stuck during emergency
Product help user in event of emergency.
“Students do not get sufficient social interaction”
Product serves to enhance user social life.
“nothing for me without me”
Product must be designed with disabled input at
When Seth and I (John) first began this interview it started with a lot of background on disability
legislation. While the names, dates, and politics behind the legislation were unimportant, some of the
ideas from the legislation showed us new avenues for the design and analysis of our co-robot. The idea
of maintaining the essential nature of the activity, as articulated in the Americans with Disabilities Act is
an inspiration to aid our users while maintaining the essential nature of their lives.
The greatest nugget of information we got out of this interview was the concept of “nothing for
me without me.” We knew from the beginning that this project would require us to carefully study our
users in order to meet their needs. What we were not thinking as much about though was bringing our
users into every step of the design. If we are able to do this it will greatly increase our project’s chances
of fulfilling their needs. Moving forward we will try to keep potential users in the design loop as much
as possible so that we can incorporate their knowledge and experience into the design.
I learned how important it is to review an interview several times and dissect each response
fully. In the interview, the value of the “nothing for me without me” concept was something I picked up
on almost immediately. However the idea of “essential nature” was not something that I thought of
until I went back and carefully reviewed the transcript.
Partial transcript of notes taken while doing the interview:
Q: Can you provide us with a little background on the creation and evolution of the DSP?
In the mid 80’s the access board was created at a federal level to implement non-discrimination laws.
Over the years the laws have increased their complexity and coverage. The ADA act requires that all
government agencies provide accessibility. This led directly to the creation of the DSP to assist
disabled students at UC Berkeley. One example of the access board’s work is that all websites are
arranged in JAWS readable type. This enables blind people to use the internet.
Q: What are some of the challenges you face in providing assistance to students.
ADA requires that professors provide any aid so long as it does not change the essential nature of the
class. This leads at times to a debate between academic freedom and non-discrimination. The concept
of essential nature is also difficult to define. For example students with dyscalcula cannot use a
calculator on nursing tests, because it is essential that nurses do mental math on the spot.
Q: What are some of the common services you provide?
The assistance that each student requires is unique. With that in mind some of our more common
services are note taking, because the students have difficulty processing full speed. We also use live
scribe pens to allow students to play back over the lecture. For the hearing impaired we provide a
caption cart so that they can read the professors lecture in real time, but it has a four to five second
delay. Our students especially have difficulty during class discussions because of the chaos in the
classroom. If they can’t hear or speak well they are unlikely to get the whole discussion experience. We
focus on addressing functional limitations, using accommodations unique to each user and situation.
We also address the fact that the Berkeley campus is located on a hill, many students arrive with
manual wheelchairs, but they all receive power chairs. Also the average age of campus elevators is 50
years and many of them are too small to accommodate disabled students, but they are very expensive
Q: What are some problems that disabled students have that you feel are not being adequately
Emergency evacuation plans are difficult. Students in wheelchairs have been carried over stairs by the
flow of people. We have attempted to give all students with wheelchairs walkie-talkies so they can talk
with rescue personal. The problem is the batteries can die or the students might leave their walkietalkies at home. Students who drive to campus lack sufficient parking. UC Berkeley as a whole has a
parking problem and the disabled spaces are only mandated at a ratio that leaves us with insufficient
spaces. Another key issue for our disabled students is social interaction. Sometimes they come talk to
me just because they don’t really know anyone else. I feel like disabled students are often ignored by
the non-disabled for fear of offending them our doing something wrong, but this just makes them more
isolated. Several disabled students have left UC Berkeley because they felt to alone.
Do you have any additional comments?
First, I feel like we have difficulty serving our Grad student population. Four percent of undergraduates
are registered with the DSP versus less than two percent of graduates. I think that there are a number
of factors such as additional pressure and a reluctance to ask for “special allowances,” but I still want to
be able to provide the services that these students need. Also and most importantly in your project
remember that any design for the disabled must be an interactive process, “nothing with me without
Audrey Wu: BioEngineering Student
I interviewed an old family friend of mine, Audrey Wu. She is a junior in BioEngineering,
who has a rare blood condition which requires biweekly hospital visits. Some of her biggest
concerns were the impact that her condition has on the rest of her family, and the coldness of
the healthcare professionals during the stay in the hospital.
Emotional security from financial burden placed on family
Energy to continue relationship with friends and family
Emotional connection with doctors and nurses without compromising their jobs
Loneliness in the hospital
Pain of using needles
Reflection and Lessons Learned
After conducting an interview with a partner as the transcriber of the pair and
attempting to do this interview myself, I realized how much less information I got in the entire
process. The pace of the interview was much slower than the other interview and I realized my
phone’s audio recorder was not good enough to catch much of the interview at all, so I was
incapable of going back to retake some more notes on the entire interview exchange.
Also, because of the overall slower pace compared to the interview I had as a pair, there
was less information to collect overall and there were some awkward pauses in the process
where I had to tell Audrey to wait for me before she continued talking so I could catch up with
the notes. This seemed to make her lose her train of thought a couple of times and I had to
prompt her on what she was talking about prior to the pause. This caused the interview
process to be much choppier than expected and I found I had to go back to written down
question more often than thinking of follow-up question organically.
I ran out of question at the end and unfortunately that is how the interview ended, so
next time I will have to plan and write down more questions to keep the interview going.
My process for this interview was that I hypothesized Audrey would have less to talk
about the physical medical technology part of having her specific condition of anemia and
more to talk about the emotional problems of her medical condition. This is why I tried to focus
more on the emotional side and determine the emotional needs that she needed fulfilled
because of her medical condition.
As the interview progressed I saw that her main concern that she seemed to feel was in
fact her relationships and not her physical needs that needed to be fulfilled because she really
did not interact with too many medical equipment. This was mainly because she could function
by herself normally 99% of the time without any assistance from other people during her daily
routine. It was only the hospital visits that were holding her back and her physique because she
ran out of energy some weeks during her recovery. Her main concern specifically was her
family and friends.
Unfortunately this interview did not produce as much as the other interviewees who
had more severe physical handicaps. Many of the emotions Audrey felt were to be expected
and there were no real insights that varied too much from that of the other interviews. The
user needs that were collected in this interview were merely emotional ones since she had
practically no experience with medical equipment or technology used with handicapped
Interview Transcript [Audrey Wu]
Partial transcript of notes taken while doing the interview.
Note: some lines are just summaries of what was actually said.
Q. What is the worst part of the hospital experience?
I would definitely say the cost of being at the hospital, but I guess that isn’t a tangible worst
part of the hospital, but that definitely follows you around for the rest of your daily routine, the
constant weight of knowing your family has to pay for these hospital visit for me.
But in terms of the actual hospital, I really don’t enjoy the loneliness during the biweekly visits
there. Sitting there for hours on end by yourself without anyone to talk to sometimes is the
worst and you just count the hours with television shows. The shows just go on and on and you
just kind of blankly stare because you really don’t want to watch the shows, you just want it to
be over and go home. It is nice when mom or dad or my sister stays with me, but they generally
have things to do during the day and they can’t sit there with me all day talking to me.
Q. Could you also go into some other unpleasant experiences you have experienced at the
The doctors have this fake initial kindness when they first meet you to try and calm you
down on the whole situation, but as you get accustomed to them, you realize that they really
have much attachment to their patients. I guess this is supposed to be part of their job, to not
get emotionally attached, but it’s just an unpleasant feeling to put your life in their hands and
they don’t seem to have any investment in you getting better. Or at least they don’t show it.
Q. What is the best part of the hospital experience?
I wouldn’t say any part of being in the hospital is the “best,” but every once in a while a nurse
comes in that actually seems to care and it is always nice to experience those types of people.
The only problem with this is that nurses are fickle and they change constantly, at least for me,
for each visit. So some visits to the hospital for the blood transfusion are much worse than
Q. What are just some of the emotions you have felt through this entire experience?
Initially it was a self-pity, and I used to think that was the strongest emotion I felt and the
constant asking to myself, “Why me?” But now I know that it’s not the emotions for
myself, but for my family and my friends, that make me feel the worst about this disease.
It is the financial guilt and guilt of not having enough energy to dance or have adventures with
my friends or not being able to hang out with my friends at all on the weekend because I have
to go home to Freemont and go to my biweekly schedule hospital visit. It’s these things that hit
me the hardest.
Q. Could you elaborate on the feelings of guilt on your family?
The financial burden is so much. My family definitely is not rich, actually we don’t even make
50k for our total family household income so it’s hard to essentially force these bills on my
parents and even though I have talked to them about the bills, they continue to say that it’s no
burden that my health comes above all else, but it’s just hard to believe and it weighs on me all
Not only that, the independence I gained the first semester of college was amazing and I felt
like I finally left home, only to have to come back home again and have my parents drive me to
and back from the hospital on the weekends. This was an unfortunate change for me
Q. Could you tell me about some of the technologies that you used at the hospital?
I can’t say too much on this, because I don’t really use too much. Initially I had some blood
work done when I initially went to the hospital just for being sick and low on energy and that’s
where they diagnosed me. Yea they just did a lot of blood work, diagnosed me and told me
that I had to come in every 2 weeks to get my levels tested and see how I was doing and to
regulate my blood levels.
Q. Can you talk about some of the medical equipment you found unpleasing?
I really don’t enjoy needles, but I eventually kind of got a little desensitized to the entire needle
in arm thing, but I still really do not enjoy it. There are some cool tricks that some nurses do
some it doesn’t sting, but not all of them do it.
Kie Fuji Interview
Q: Could you go through your daily routine?
At 6 in the morning wake up, my attendant stretches my legs and arms for an hour
She helps me change clothes and with my personal hygiene routine. She then transfers me
from the bed to the chair and helps me get my food ready which I eat in my room. I get my
books and papers that I printed in my backpack. My attendant helps me from 6-7:30 am and
then I have classes from 8-12. Then the 2nd attendant comes to help me get food afterwards.
Twice a week I work out at Pleasanton for 2 hours each.
Q: Could you talk about your attendant schedule?
She has 4 different attendants
She preps dinner.
Because of her physical limitation she can’t write, so she has homework scribes.
She goes to club meeting 7-8. Other days she goes to study groups.
She has a morning attendant, one on the weekday and one on the weekend, same for lunch
Night attendant works every day.
She gets stretched for an hour at night because her muscles tightened up.
Someone comes in once during the night because she sleeps on one side and she gets pressure
sores and they roll her over.
Q: What are some difficulties on campus?
Can’t press elevator buttons. Needs to ask random people to press buttons for her
The building in SLC has a good elevator that has regular elevator and you can hit it with the
chair since big and lower
The door opener has the top switch but not the bottom one
The sign walks for when pressing it is hard
There are cracks on the sidewalk and the wires of her wheelchair got stuck once
LeConte, says there is an accessible area here, but there were stairs, and sometimes the signs
are misleading and she had to go around the building. Same problem for wheeler. Has to take
2 elevators and has a roundabout way to get into buildings.
She did get a radio from the director, she uses her cellphone in cases of emergency, so she
doesn’t carry the radio around since its useless to her.
Got hit by a car one time. People in cars don’t see her since she was so low while she was
WERE YOU BY YOURSELF WHEN YOU WERE HIT? WHAT DID YOU DO IN THAT TYPE OF
People just helped her.
In dorms she has the Cal id card and she can scan it to open the door to open the ground floor
door. It would be better if she could do that for other doors on campus. It would be more
Benefit of having a lot of people on campus. There are always people to help out.
She once was going down a hill and had a muscle spasm and fell and landed on the joystick.
WAS A NIGHTMARE.
Really bad sidewalks and hills in Berkeley. Her chair has broken 3 times.
Her chair broke down dead week and had her attendant push her around.
She wishes they had spare power chairs at DSP for these situations. The motor usually breaks.
When it’s raining outside she needs to wear a poncho because she can’t get the joystick wet
and she can’t get the poncho stuck in the wheels.
Q: Could you list off some technologies you use?
-For homework or when she is emailing people, so she just speaks into a microphone, but it’s a
problem for stuff like chemistry.
-Hand strap has a hole to feed herself.
-A lot of tables aren’t adjustable so she has to sit at the end of the table
-For organic chemistry she was talking the full 2-3 hours during the final.
-Problems with iclickers. She couldn’t press the buttons. There is an app that can be used as an
iclicker for her iPhone.
-She doesn’t take much medication. No pain, but a lot of spinal cord injury patients’ use it to
reduce the amount of pain they feel. The problem she has is when the day changes her body
can’t regulate its own temperature as well because of her disability. A nebulizer- put medicine
inside (like an inhaler with a mask) and it’s supposed to open up your lungs and cough up all the
Q: What are some of the emotions you felt during and after the accident?
It was caused by a car accident May of 2002, 11 years ago. I used to be a really avid runner and
go to junior Olympics and did gymnastics, track and field, dance. It was very difficult transition.
I was very confused with the doctor terminology. I was 9 and didn’t really know what was
happening, but I did know it was a severe injury because whenever friends and family members
would look at me and they would start crying. It never occur to me that I couldn’t move and I
would ask my mom when I could walk and she would always say in a month. But when I got
older it started to hit me more. I was sad a lot in high school. Elementary school wasn’t too bad
since people knew me before the accident, but the moving from Georgia to California I had
trouble making friends.
STORY: In 8th grade, a girl said to me, “Oh I didn’t know you could read and write.” Even when I
went to japan, people would just stare at me. Disabled people are less culturally accepted
outside of the US.
It’s hard when the doctors tell me to give up on walking. They would look at MRI and situation
and tell my parents why they are wasting money to go to Project Walk. They think its false
advertisement which isn’t true because there are so many clients that have gone from not
being able to walk at all to using crutches.
Q: What was a main fear of yours that happened from your disability?
I am scared that my physical limitation will affect me from getting a job that I want in the
future. I want to be a radiologist. Radiology was influenced by my accident. I looked up to
these nurses and doctors, but I obviously can’t be a surgeon or a pediatrician and radiology
would be the most realistic field for me since they analyze images. When I finally shadowed a
radiologist he used drag and drop and used a microphone to diagnose and these are all things
that I can do even with my disability.
Kie Fuji is a quadriplegic sophomore student of UC Berkeley. We scheduled the
interview through my contact with Kie as a student of my high school. She had her accident
when she was 9 in a freak car accident that left her disabled and unable to move any of her
limbs. Through the years however, she has regained some of her ability to move her arms and
her hand. Her dexterity and ability to move these limbs is still a far cry from an abled person’s
The main differences with Kie’s life compared to that of the normal student are her very
scheduled life. There is not too much leeway in terms of her schedule. She has a very set
schedule with her attendants that come every single day to get her ready for the day and get
her ready to go back to sleep. She also needs her attendants to stretch her along with her
scheduled stretching session at a physical therapy center. Again, like many of the other
disabled people we have interviewed, independence was her biggest concern in her story after
she had come to terms with her accident and her disabilities. She didn’t discuss too many issue
with the fact of dignity aside form that fact that she has to ask for help a lot with things like
reaching and pressing elevator buttons because she is not elevated high enough or doesn’t
have the arm strength to press the button sufficiently to operate the elevator. She says this can
be embarrassing and difficult when attending her 8am class when there aren’t too many
people to ask for help.
The expenses of her mobility also remained an issue with her especially with the hills
that are everywhere around the Berkeley campus. Kie has already gone through 3 power
wheelchairs which cost a lot to repair and replace. Each chair averages 5000 dollars. Also
stretching requires at least hour of work for her attendants everyday not including her extra
physical therapy sessions. The stretching usually happens once in the morning and once at
Independently taking care of herself was an important need and if not being able to,
being able to trust the caretakers was essential since in the transition from high school to
college, Kie had to change from letting her mother and father take care of her to alternate
caretakers that are paid.
Issues with her life
She has homework scribes
She has 4 attendants that come in
and out depending on the day and
time of day
It is difficult for her to take tests
on subjects like organic chemistry
She is afraid of not being able to
do what she wants. Her job
capabilities in the future are very
limited because of this accident.
Campus design features need to be more
sensitive to wheelchair students
The elevator buttons are too high;
they need to be lowered like the
ones in the dorms.
The hills of Berkeley and sidewalks
are very tough on power
wheelchairs. They strain the
motor, either better sidewalks or
better, stronger wheelchairs need
to be made.
Sidewalk cracks get her
wheelchair wheels stuck.
Doors don’t open with her CalID
like in the dorms. This would
make mobility on campus much
simpler since she can’t open the
There is no real solution for rainy
days aside from wearing a poncho
since her wheelchair can’t get wet
otherwise it would break.
Emotions during the process
Initially she did not know how to
feel about the accident, but as she
came to realization of what she
was capable of she fell into a
period of depressions where it was
hard for her to communicate with
Her mother used to tell her that
she would be all better within a
The transition from her parents to caretakers
taking care of her was difficult because of the trust
that was involved is performing such intimate
Independence and more sensitivity to the trials
and tribulations of students in wheelchairs on
campus were greatly wanted by Kie. There were
many issues here that she described.
There were many notes on how her stretching was
one of the biggest if not the biggest thing for her
physical therapy. To keep blood running through
her body was extremely important. She had some
ideas on how to make this better.
It is hard to communicate people and hold dates
and whatnot because of her disability. She doesn’t
see too many people because of her mobility
issues and mainly stays by herself seeing her
friends every once in a while. Loneliness is a main
issue. If it was easier to set up social meetings it
would be better.
month, but it never came and she
eventually came to realize it was a
She not has come to accept it and
feels much better about it. She
knows her disability and realizes
how it will and has affected her
life. She is sad sometimes, but
usually is fine. Life is lonely
Mark (Volunteer at Ashby Village)
“Many seniors are frustrated about their physical
mobility and lack of independence”
Product increases mobility
“Keyboards and touch screens are a challenge.
Some elderly people with arthritis use their
knuckles to type and find it almost impossible to
type on iPads/iPhones or other touch screens”
Product has simple interface with large buttons or
other simple user inputs.
“One older woman who had macular
degeneration had a large electric book reader.
Since her eyesight was very poor, she couldn’t
read books anymore so she needed a machine
that enlarged the text many times its normal size
onto a TV screen.”
Product is accessible to users with poor eyesight.
“They are very grateful. Many are also frustrated
that they need someone to come help them with
simple tasks they used to be able to do on their
own, but everyone is still grateful.”
Product use allows the user to retain their dignity.
“Almost everything in Johnson’s Medical Supply
store needs to be redesigned. The wheel chairs
and other products look like they are from the
1940s and they are all a bland, industrial color.
Also, they are very very expensive.”
Product is attractive.
Product is affordable.
Mark was happy to talk to us and shared many of his thoughts and observations from his
volunteer work. This made the interview very conversational instead of a list of questions, which was
great. I think this allowed us to better understand what he thought was important since our list of
questions did not dictate the interview. In this conversational setting we gathered a significant amount
of knowledge that our list of questions would not have elicited. For example, Mark’s discussion of his
own health care insurance and his observations of the different types of senior living arrangements
were new to us.
We were very fortunate that Mark had product design experience as well as his experience
volunteering with seniors. The interview was set up before we knew his career was in product design, so
that was great surprise. He was adamant about redesigning a current product instead of trying to invent
a robotic system. This gave us practice with our interviewing skills since we had to collect information
about the applications of robotics, without asking any robot-specific questions.
Overall it was a successful interview, and one in which I better followed the interviewing
guidelines than in my previous two interviews.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? How did you become involved with Ashby Village?
Mark works as an industrial and graphic designer. He became involved with Ashby Village when an
elderly neighbor told him about it. He said, “Everyone has an excuse to be busy,” but he feels that
volunteering is important.
Tell us about Ashby Village. How do you join? Is there a membership fee? Etc…
Ashby Village is a community of elderly people who are living at home, but have access to a volunteer
network. Volunteers help seniors with a large variety of tasks and organize group activities and classes
for the seniors. Ashby Village has a membership fee of $1000 per year. Some of that covers the
administrative costs, but admin costs are very low – there is only one full time and one part time paid
employee – everything else is run by volunteers.
What types of volunteer activities have you done with Ashby Village?
Mark has taught an iPad class to seniors in Ashby village. He has also done housework or yard work.
Little projects like replacing light bulbs or helping someone set up a book reading machine. The types
of volunteering that are most need include driving elderly to doctors’ appointments … The village
provides a social group and a support group to individuals who often start to feel isolated living in their
How do the elderly feel about having someone come to their home to help them?
They are very grateful. Many are also frustrated that they need someone to come help them with
simple tasks they used to be able to do on their own, but everyone is still grateful.
What are some of the more common problems seniors face?
- Frustration over physical mobility and lack of independence
- Can no longer drive
- Can’t walk up stairs in their own home, so many elderly have stopped using half of their house.
- Cut curbs in the US have helped mobility. In other countries you don’t see disabled people walking
around in public unassisted.
Product Design Perspectives:
We asked Mark for specific examples of things the elderly had a hard time using and specific things
that worked well.
Elderly Issues/ Solutions:
Keyboards and touch screens are a challenge. Some elderly people with arthritis use their
knuckles to type and find it almost impossible to type on iPads/iPhones or other touch screens.
Example: Prius – The Prius has key-less entry to the car doors. Also, the car has a keyless start.
If the key is in the car, the user only has to press a large button to start the car. This is very convenient
for elderly as well as other users.
You said driving elderly to doctors’ appointments was a very common and highly needed volunteer
activity. Can you elaborate on the issues elderly face in getting to a health-care provider? Have you
seen any good solutions?
I personally can email my doctor since I have Kaiser Permanente health insurance. That has saved me a
number of trips into the doctor’s office. I have self-diagnosed a problem, then emailed my doctor. They
have electronic health records and healthy life-style programs. In the future I see more health care
providers adding electronic options so patients, and especially older patients don’t have to make a trip
to a doctors office as frequently.
What sorts of products to elderly use to help them remain in their home?
One older woman who had macular degeneration had a large electric book reader. Since her eyesight
was very poor, she couldn’t read books anymore so she needed a machine that enlarged the text many
times its normal size onto a TV screen. Unfortunately, the company she purchased it from left it on the
floor and she couldn’t pick it up and move it to a table where she could use it.
Other products I have seen are the grabber tools. People use them to pick things up off the
floor since they can’t easily bend over. They are also good for grabbing certain things off shelves.
What do you think about products that are currently on the market?
Almost everything in Johnson’s Medical Supply store needs to be redesigned. The wheel chairs and
other products look like they are from the 1940s and they are all a bland, industrial color. Also, they are
very very expensive.
I had to help my mother add a basket to her walker and fit tennis balls on the end of the walker. It is
amazing that it was so much of a hassle to use the product for what it was intended for and to have paid
so much for it.
Do you have any other thoughts about elderly and in-home living?
Ashby Village enables many seniors in Berkeley to remain in there home longer than they
would have, but it isn’t a solution that would work in many communities. Berkeley is unique in that
most of the elderly are fairly well off and have their homes paid off. Also, there are plenty of people
willing to volunteer.
In other places senior living condos might be the only option before assisted living. But I don’t
think those are a very good option. They are extremely expensive and neither the living space or the
food is very good. One need for the elderly is the general living environment needs to be re-thought.
There should be a more contemporary living option with better food.
I would recommend you check out OXO. They are a great example of a company that redesigned a
common product into something that can be used by elderly and young people alike. I would
recommend you try to redesign a poorly designed product instead of inventing something entirely new
in one semester.
Additionally, our project involves studying the applications of robotics in healthcare. Do you have
any thoughts on the use of robots in healthcare? Would you be comfortable with a robot providing
I don’t know… I feel like that is pretty far in the future. I read an interesting article in WIRED about a
new type of robotics that learn by repeating an action people show them. I think the future is very
interesting, but I don’t know how they could be applied now.
Mark asked us: Would you use a Roomba vacuum cleaner? We said no because we were physically fit
and would rather pay for better cleaning power instead of a robot.
Cheryl Crane’s Home Health Care Needs
“Home health care is providing for those who
aren’t so independent”
“make the lives of seniors easier”
“I found using the key very difficult”
“I found it odd that they had these automatic
faucet and soap dispensers. But I now think they
are so smart”
“Stairs are usually not recommended because a
lot of falls occur them”
“danger of slipping or falling in the shower is
something that needs to be addressed more
The product must instill independence to the
The product must simplify daily activities
The product must provide the user a sense of
“It changes their attitude about life.”
The product must allow the user to feel confident
“To us it’s a way of communicating.”
The product should be able to allow the user to
feel more social
“Seniors are reluctant to modify or update their
homes because they have to eventually take it
down or don’t want the stigma associated with
looking like a hospital.”
The product must be customizable to the user
The product must be portable
The product must be easily assembled
The product must be easy to use
Cheryl Crane is a 60 year old designer who volunteers at the Ashby Village. Her job is to
evaluate people’s homes and make recommendations to make it more assessable and safer. She
usually evaluates the homes of the elderly, and from her experience finds fall prevention, vision and
mobility as a top priority.
Cheryl Crane is one of few people we got in contact with through the Ashby Village, a program
dedicated for the elderly. I decided to approach the interview as if she was a care taker, because her job
is primarily to assist. But right off the bat, she responded to one of my questions saying that she isn’t a
care taker but just someone who just simply assists. But using open ended questions (something we
learn to use after our first interview), I found out that she was in her 60s (one of the age groups that our
product is targeted for). So instead of interviewing her as a caretaker, I decided to interview her as an
elderly. She definitely gave me a ton of insight of her experience growing older and from her experience
on her job and what she observed. Again, I learned to use open ended question and have the
interviewee steer and guide the interview instead of me. I found that this is the best way to remove any
bias from my question and discover true needs for our target market.
Interview Transcript (Note some responses are summaries of what was actually stated)
Q: What does home health care mean to you?
A: Home health care is providing for those who aren’t so independent, for those who can’t provide for
themselves. For me, I assist those who are independent. I evaluate their homes and make them safer.
Q: Can you give me some more specific information on what you do?
A: Well I’m an interior designer and my primary job is to make the lives of seniors easier. I work with a
team of designers who go to the homes of those who contact the Ashby Village. We have a checklist
that we go through and look for any potential hazards. We evaluate the conditions of the sidewalk, the
way the entrance of the house is set up, side of the house, lighting, kitchen, wiring, bathroom and any
other areas of potential pitfalls. One of the major recommendations that I give them is, when possible,
to upgrade their stairs to ramps. Stairs are usually not recommended because a lot of falls occur them.
Falls is the number thing we try to prevent.
Q: Is there a reason why fall prevention is your number on goal?
A: Well when a senior falls, the repercussion isn’t just physical. It’s also mental. There is fear that grows
in them that deters them from performing that same task. It changes their attitude about life.
Q: In your personal experience what sort of technology do you see involved in the lives of the disabled
A: Well a lot of in home health care involve technology. The automated wheelchair and blood pressure
monitor are two examples ... I also read some interesting devices on agenplacetech.com. There was this
one device that helped a gentleman with a vision disability see and another about a wearable tech
device that has sensors and everything.
The thing is people think that seniors don’t really want to get into technology and use the computer,
but that’s not always the case. I’m 60 and a lot of the people who participate in my apple workshop are
older than me. They want to learn to use the ipad and the computer. To us it’s a way of communicating.
Q: What is something that you noticed is troubling you recently that you previously were able to do?
A: Well I found using the key very difficult. I now fiddle with the keys and struggle to open the door
sometimes. I sometimes wish that our lock were similar to the ones in a hotel, where a swipe of a card
opens the door.
There was this one nice house I was inspecting and I found it odd that they had these automatic faucet
and soap dispensers. But I now think they are so smart. We don’t have to fiddle with anything and it
Q: You brought up how fall prevention was your number one goal. What are some common areas
besides the stairs do you feel the need for additional assessment?
A: The bathroom is a big one. There are some really cool technologies in the bathroom, but the danger
of slipping or falling in the shower is something that needs to be addressed more often. There are
hydraulic lifts that exist, but many bathrooms are simply too small for them. Many adults don’t realize
or refuse to believe that they’re growing older, and don’t really account for it.
There’s also the matter of rental home. Seniors are reluctant to modify or update their homes because
they have to eventually take it down or don’t want the stigma associated with looking like a hospital.
Rental homes are very small and the appliances are very basic and not particularly suited for the elderly.
Laura, residential architect for Ashby Village
John and I interviewed Laura, a residential architect for Ashby Village. Ashby Village is a concept
community in which senior citizens who prefer to age at home pool resources and volunteers to assist
one another. As a residential architect, Laura works with an interior designer to assess the accessibility
and safety of the homes of elderly members.
We interviewed her to get a better understanding of the typical problems she encounters in her
assessments, and what problems she is not able to fix. She uses a checklist of things to look for in the
home, along with an interview of the elderly person’s needs. She finished by giving the member a
report of recommendations to improve their home.
Reflections and Lessons Learned
Laura thought the needs of the user base (senior citizens) would change significantly as the older
boomers, who don’t know how to use computers, die out. This demographic is changing to people who
know how to use the internet and computers. So maybe we should target our robot design at this new
market, of people who are more comfortable with technology, robotics, and assistive devices.
She advocated a lot of home design solutions, remodeling homes or co-living, moving groups of retired
people together. Do we want to target groups, like nursing homes, with our robot? This group also
increases the resources available to afford and maintain our robot, something to think about.
Maybe even more so than current retirees, we may want to talk to future retirees: people who will be
senior citizens in 20 years. We have the problems that citizens currently have through our interviews
with the elderly. But the people who will be elderly when our product, 10 or 20 years out, finally
becomes technologically available at a consumer level, what problems will they have?
Pair interviewing worked really well here, we had a nice flow of conversation, got a lot of useful insight,
and focused, cohesive notes. The one thing: we would have liked to ask her more questions as she
retires. Banking off our last insight: Laura is a future retiree, how will she interact differently with her
environment and technology? What problems does she foresee for herself and her generation?