Sara’s Glove Project: a class project for Wearable and Soft Interactions at CCA.
Sara is a 12 year old girl living in New Jersey. Sara was born with serious health problems and severe disabilities, but she has progressed mentally and physically over the years, and is now in need of a better way to communicate with her parents, caregivers and the outside world.
Right now Sarah primarily communicates by gestures, simple sounds and occasionally writing, so we decided to do two prototypes throughout the process: an electronic prototype to potentially address speech issues and the possibility that we might enable Sara to use the internet, and an analog glove to her her write on her own, or at least help her caretaker when Sara is writing with assistance.
A picture of Melissa (Sara’s mother) helping her daughter write.
Our team name is Lev+Elle. My name is Elle O, and I’m working with Levan M.
I’m studying interaction design and computer science, and I have a heavy medical/bio educational background, with lots of experience with assistive devices in a medical and disability context. Levan is an architecture student who also works in the electronics/audio-video business.
Levan’s website can be found here: http://wearablesoftinteractions.us/levan-m/
Our Prototype 1 team page is here: http://wearablesoftinteractions.us/levelle-prototype-1/
Our Prototype 2 Team Page is here: http://wearablesoftinteractions.us/lev-elle-prototype-2/
My Dynamic Textile Page is here: http://wearablesoftinteractions.us/elles-dynamic-textile/
My Instructable is here: http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Solve-the-Dreaded-Lilypad-USB-Serial-PortDr/
I chose this topic for my Instructable because I probably spent 20+ hours this semester troubleshooting Lilypad issues, so it was a natural choice. Hopefully it helps others, though the FTDI driver company may have just released a fix for some of the issues I encountered.
What is Cerebral Palsy? According to the Mayo Clinic, “cerebral palsy is caused by an abnormality or disruption in brain development, usually before a child is born. In many cases, the exact trigger of this abnormality isn’t known. Factors that may lead to problems with brain development include:
- Random mutations in genes that control brain development.
- Maternal infections that affect the developing fetus.
- Fetal stroke, a disruption of blood supply to the developing brain.
- Lack of oxygen to the brain (asphyxia) related to difficult labor or delivery. This is rarely a cause.
- Infant infections that cause inflammation in or around the brain.
- Traumatic head injury to an infant from a motor vehicle accident or fall.”
First we did lots of research. We looked into Sara’s background, how her cerebral palsy affects her, and how her condition has affected her body. We also researched how others cope with disabilities, both similar and different. We found inspiration in the stories of people with varying levels of disability, from those with mild or moderate issues, to those with “locked in” syndrome.
We also looked at the devices used by people with disabilities, from the Grip Mate for those with limited finger grip or partial amputations, to Stephen Hawking’s communication system, which allows the severely incapacitated/locked in astrophysicist to interact with the world outside his body.
I was quite shocked at the exorbitant pricing and limited selection for many assistive devices, despite the complexity of needs.
Examples of Stephen Hawking’s fully automated wheelchair and communication devices, including the screen interface design.
This is the Grip Mate, a simple brace that is sold online and relatively popular among disabled people. It’s simple, cheap and durable, according to reviews.
The Freehand Glove is cool looking, but lacks any reviews and costs around $400!
Resources for our Assistive Device Research/Inspirations:
The Grip Mate Holder
You Can Now Use Stephen Hawking’s Speech Software for Free
Freehand Glove Kit
GoTalk Now Communication Software
We researched and ordered parts and supplies like fabric and electronic components:
Look at this cool, breathable neoprene fabric!
Then we prototyped:
Troubleshooting Lilypad driver issues extensively:
Figuring out ways to elegantly guide and secure wires when working on a fabric surface using mesh channels and pockets:
Designing connections and then soldering:
The mostly finished Sensor Glove prototype (before the electronics were added):
The finished sensor glove prototype:
The Writing Mitten Prototype:
We made two prototypes. One is a simple brace/writing instrument holder-mitten, and the other is a more complex design that included two sensors. We made 2 prototypes because Sara has multiple needs, and we’d like to enable her to write, and also possibly communicate electronically/interact with an app/the internet. It’s easier to split the projects at this point.
So the “writing mitten” will be used to evaluate the best design for her to hold a pen, and possibly write independently.
The second, “sensor glove” is being used at this point to measure her ability to touch points and the kind of pressure she can apply. A movable pressure sensor will be included, and we’ve denoted several sites on the glove as contact points through our use of gray felt. We’ve also included a flex sensor on her forefinger, which measures movement/flexion. These sensors are attached to LEDs which will change colors depending on Sara’s movements, giving us data which we can use to design a better second version for Sara.
We came up with these designs by listening to the requests made from Sara’s family and caretakers, including Cortney. Their comments about her need to communicate and possibly write on her own resonated with us, so that was the direction we took.
Desired feedback for these prototypes:
- We want to see Sara’s touching abilities. By touching objects, her other fingers, or a flat surface in front of her she will activate the pressure sensor, changing the color of the LED/lights, and therefore giving us information to work with when we design the next prototype.
- We want to see how Sara flexes her forefinger. The flex sensor will detect movement and give us information that we can use to potentially design some sort of simple communication device for her.
- We want to see if a better-designed brace or assistive device might give her the ability to write on her own, once the brace has been placed on her hand by a caregiver. We also want to find the best design and fit for her glove/brace, whether it be either of these two designs, a combination of both, or input from someone else’s design.
Questions we’d like Sara’s caregivers and family to answer:
- Do you foresee a streamlined and more advanced version of either prototype being comfortable for Sara?
- Can Sara give us any design specifics or firm color/material/fit preferences?
- Do you think a brace or glove like this would be helpful to Sarah?
Sara’s caretakers ended up loving the writing mitten. Sara also said that the electronic glove was her favorite, since it had hearts (I intentionally made it frilly to appeal to a young girl). They also had some concerns, and we saw some issues in the feedback session, both which I will address in the next section.
Here are two videos of the feedback session:
For the electronic prototype we went with more of a “dock” situation, instead of using a glove, since Sara had a hard time handling the weight of our first prototype. We made it easier for her to access both sensors by attaching them more firmly to the device. We arranged them underneath her hand, and directly between her thumb and forefinger (which we hoped were usually resting together). We realized we could not expect her to make dramatic movements like crooking her fingers after viewing the first feedback sessions, so tapping methods of touch or casual finger contractions seemed far better. We also made the sensors much more sensitive via programming modifications (mapping delicate sensor values/settings) and resistor choices, since her touches are apparently feather-light. We chose comfortable velveteen upholstery fabric for Sara, and strove to make the straps firm, yet comfortable. Sara’s comfort is one of our primary objectives.
For the 2nd writing mitten we greatly reduced the size, as we created the first prototype when we didn’t have any measurements. We found out that it was much too large. We were able to create a much more suitable prototype this round by using Lara’s model 3D hand and Sara’s measurements. We made the foam writing ball more comfortable by leaving a round contact surface with the hand. The ball was attached to the glove with Velcro, which was applied more securely via a scoring and glue method, and we added a longer Vecro strip, so that the ball could be more over a larger area, allowing for the most customization. We also secured the pen more firmly via grip tape, and used more breathable, comfortable fabric for the body of the mitten.
We made these modifications using a combination of the feedback from Sara and her caretakers, as well as our our own observations from the feedback session. We then combined these comments and observations with our own past experiences with assistive technologies to create a better design. Finally, we continued to go with the heart motif and decorative/folksy stitching. We also started planning to use more feminine colors, and maybe even a hand-painted or hand-drawn motif in the future, since this style is echoed in Sara’s own artistic work and therefore familiar to her.
For Prototype 2, we asked the family the following questions:
- How is the fit and comfort of both the new dock interface and the improved mitten model?
- Can Sara change the lights when using the interface and touching the two sensors? (A clear video of this would be great!)
- Can Sara write at all unaided with the Writing Mitten, and does it help at all if she’s aided?
Sara’s family was confused by the dock, and didn’t fully answer our questions. In terms of function, the 2nd electronic prototype/the first dock was meant to be very much like the first. Sara would activate a sensor and that input would be translated into visible color changes on LEDs, which her caretakers would report back to us. This didn’t happen due to the confusion as to function. We did notice that Sara kept pulling her arm up and towards her, rendering the dock somewhat useless, since it was in mid-air for much of the try-on session. We resolved to either include Velcro to hold the dock down, or else have a slot for a book or other heavy weight for version 3 of the electronic prototype. Either of these securement options would be located on the underside.
Sara’s family really liked the writing mitten, particularly now that it’s about the right size, and it’s one they plan to keep and possibly utilize.
Below are videos of my demo for both models of Prototype 2.
(Sorry if I talk too fast in the video!) 😛
Here are photos of the try-on session:
Here’s a video of the mitten try on session:
Process for Prototype(s) 2:
Prototype 2 Finals
After the issues with the first dock, we decided to make a new prototype that was similar, but also larger, more comfortable, and covered in really nice, super soft, furry fabric. We included a flap on the bottom to hold a heavy weight (like a book), which would make it harder for Sara to move her arm toward her. This would hopefully prevent her from lifting the dock off the surface of her table.
We also tried to make her a stiffening brace to use with the writing mitten, but I was unable to find a material that would be stiff but also comfortable. I’m still looking into it. The first two photos show the simple prototype I made with a cardboard tube, but after working with it I realized that it was never going to be comfortable for her, so I abandoned that avenue.
The other photos show the creation of the 3rd electronic prototype, using a much larger piece of foam, a large homemade sensor, and a Lilypad MP3 and speaker. When the sensor is pressed the speaker announces “suction, please.” So now there’s an audible output that Sara could possibly use to improve her care, rather than just a LED that changes color.
Since Sara’s touches are so light, we followed aspects of this tutorial video to make what we thought would be the most sensitive pressure possible for us: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPxr8RTkFOQ.
Prototypes 3 Process Gallery:
Video demo of the electronic Prototype 3:
The final electronic prototype:
Our final presentation is available at the following link: